Monday, March 18, 2013

Is U.S. attorney post a reward for putting George Ryan in prison all those years?

It was intriguing to me to learn that both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday reported about the likely person to become the new U.S. attorney for the Chicago area.
RYAN: Name back in the news

It seems that one of the prosecutors who handled the case that got former Gov. George Ryan convicted, and incarcerated, is now the front-runner to replace Patrick Fitzgerald – the U.S. attorney whose name will always be associated with putting Ryan away for all those years.

A PART OF me is sarcastic enough to dream of calling up Ryan and see if he has a reaction – just to see how irate a comment he would spew before hanging up on me!

But it would seem that Ryan is the plum in the resume of Zachary Fardon that him ahead of the other people who were supposedly in the running to replace Fitzgerald – who resigned the post last year.

It makes me wonder if the people who actually handled the prosecution of Rod Blagojevich are now going to be entitled to something resembling a promotion for the work they did in turning Milorod from a governor into a de facto history teacher of prison inmates who didn’t have the benefit of the same education that Blagojevich obtained during his lifetime.

But back to Ryan – who has tried to maintain a low profile since the day back in January when he was released from the federal work camp in Terre Haute, Ind., and spent just a couple of hours at a half-way house in Chicago before being allowed to return to his house near Kankakee.

I’M SURE HE isn’t pleased this morning seeing his name crop back into the newspapers and on their websites in conjunction with Fardon – who most recently has been an attorney in private practice with the Latham & Watkins law firm.

But in his career, he also has worked in the U.S. attorney’s offices based in Chicago and Nashville – reaching the level of the second-in-command in the “Music City” office before coming to the Second City office and having to handle the ordeal of prosecuting Ryan back in 2006.
BLAGOJEVICH: What reward for him?

To read the newspaper accounts, Fardon beat out Lori Lightfoot – who was another of four people who were supposedly the finalists in the process that will still take a few months to complete before there’s a new person working at the Dirksen Building who can go about calling himself the “USA” (as in U.S. attorney).

Lightfoot -- who could have been the first African-American woman to get the top federal prosecutorial post -- used to be with the police department’s Office of Professional Standards – the entity that is supposed to investigate Chicago’s police department to ensure that its officers behave in accordance with the law, but often gets denigrated for allegedly turning their head to instances of police malfeasance.

WHILE I’M SURE they handle many of the cases that come before them in a completely legitimate way, they also get much public grief for those few cases where it turns out that a police officer misbehaved and they were not as aggressive as they should have been in terms of discipline.

In fact, I already have stumbled across some Internet comment (anonymous, of course) claiming that anyone affiliated with city government in any way ought to be disqualified from the federal prosecutorial post that has become an unofficial watchdog over Chicago’s municipal government.

There is, however, one element we should keep in mind. Nothing truly is official when it comes to the courts or justice system until it is signed off on.
DURBIN: Has yet to make final say

Who’s to say that the “vetting” process (that both newspapers report is still ongoing) will come up with something about Fardon that will be construed as a negative?

I’M NOT SAYING there is such a thing, or that if something does turn up it won’t be something completely trivial and stupid that doesn’t deserve to be a disqualifier.

Even then, there’s always the possibility that the process will be bogged down in partisan politics. The Senate has to confirm any appointment that President Barack Obama makes with the consultation of Illinois’ two senators (Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk).

Which means that presuming we know now for sure who will be the U.S. attorney might be a risky bet. You might be safer betting on the Chicago Cubs to not completely embarrass themselves this season!


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