Murray Waas discusses the possibility that Patrick Fitzgerald may request to extend or empanel a new grand jury and yet bring indictments.
Having observed Fitzgerald over the last few years, I find this to be the most likely scenario.
In his high profiles cases that I’ve followed, Fitzgerald is not the kind of guy to shoot all of his ammunition at once. He’s strategic in what he brings at any given time with the seeming strategy to leverage current indictments to move up the food chain.
In the case of the License for Bribes scandal centering on fundraising in the Illinois Secretary of State’s office under George Ryan the initial indictments built up from the front line employees (and this started under Fitzgerald’s predecessor Scott Lasser). Those front line employees were then flipped to report on the low level political employees who flipped on mid and high level political people until it reached Scott Fawell and others like Roger “The Hog” Stanley. In the case of Ryan, it seems that Fitzgerald had more than one strategy to get to Ryan. The first was threatening Ryan’s daughter and indicting the campaign itself. The second, and the one that appears to have borne fruit, was to target Scott Fawell. Neither worked at first in terms of getting to Ryan, so Fitzgerald kept at it until he identified Fawell’s weakness: his fiancee Alexandra “Andrea” Coutretsis.
Fawell too, is claiming his trial is the criminalization of politics. He just doesn’t have an army of pundits get on Fox News and repeat it ad nauseum.
Coutretsis was squeezed on a lying to the grand jury charge. Fitzgerald then gave Fawell a choice–testify and cooperate against Ryan or Coutretsis goes to jail. Testify, she gets probation. Fitzgerald found the weakness and Fawell has been on the stand testifying against his old boss. It’s important to note that Fawell probably only felt a greater sense of obligation to one person other than Ryan and that was to Coutretsis.
In the Chicago investigations that revolve around the Daley administration, he’s used the same tactics. He started low, and built up to the high level political people with Daley’s current patronage chief, Sorich, under indictment as well as former patronage head Victor Reyes who now heads the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO). To get to that spot, Fitzgerald went after Daniel Katalinic. The Tribune describes the situation:
Katalinic, a former deputy commissioner in the Department of Streets and Sanitation, has been cooperating for months with federal authorities investigating a massive City Hall hiring scheme stretching back to 1993.
His lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, told U.S. District Judge David Coar that he expected Katalinic to change his plea to guilty within the next three to four weeks. Katalinic’s next court date was set for Nov. 15.
“Mr. Katalinic will plead guilty,” Steinback said outside the courtroom. “He has cooperated with the government, and he will continue to cooperate with the government.”
Katalinic, 54, has provided evidence against others and has secretly recorded conversations. He was indicted last month along with Robert Sorich, Daley’s longtime patronage chief; Timothy McCarthy, a former Sorich aide; John Sullivan, a managing deputy commissioner in Streets and Sanitation; and Patrick Slattery, an ex-Streets and Sanitation official.
Mayor Daley is probably hoping Reyes or Sorich don’t have a fiancee to be gone after. Seriously, I don’t know if Daley will ever be reached or that he did much more than tolerate the atmosphere, but I’m convinced that if he was involved, one guy can demonstrate that and his name Patrick Fitzgerald.
In a very different case, Fitzgerald and many others saw Matt Hale as a domestic terrorist and so he developed an informer in the Hale organization who flipped on Hale and led to Hale’s imprisonment for plotting to kill Judge Lefkow. He started lower when he had evidence of a problem, and methodically developed a case against the eventual target.
In the Lee Daniels case, it’s been pretty clear that the lower level fruit were a stepping stone to get Mike Tristano, Daniels’ former Chief of Staff. Back when Daniels was Minority Leader in the Illinois House, Rich Miller, amongst others, started to break a whole bunch of confidential sources that told of doing political work on state time. The low level fruit were gone after by Fitzgerald who then built up to an indictment against Tristano. Tristano, until recently, was considered a stumbling block because whatever Daniels knew, Tristano was probably the only guy who could tell the whole story–he was the buffer between Daniels and the rest of the House Republican campaign operation (and probably kept Saviano from kicking Daniels’ ass in caucus meetings).
Most think a recent court appearance in which the Federal Prosecutors indicated that Tristano probably would not stand trial means Tristano flipped and in some way will testify against Daniels.
The last U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois was a guy named Scott Lasser who was generally seen as an honest guy, but most of his public corruption trials involved alderman and other assorted small fry. Lasser always seemed to be complaining behind the scenes that he couldn’t get anyone to talk. The reason is obvious from the outside, Lasser looked to build a case and do it at one time. He never exhibited a pattern of building cases slowly and then moving up the food chain. He wasn’t corrupt by any account, but perhaps not very imaginative.
Peter Fitzgerald brought in a Patrick Fitzgerald to change that sense of helplessness. Fitzgerald had worked a number of different kind of cases, but the big ones were two terrorism cases involving the first World Trade Center bombing and the African Embassy Bombings. What isn’t mentioned as much, but is probably as critical to how he tries white collar crime, is he participated in several mafia related prosecutions including one of the Gambino trials.
What does all this mean assuming indictments come down tomorrow? It means that most likely, they won’t be the last and the purpose of them may not be simply to bring justice and an end to the investigation. If Fitzgerald thinks he needs to crack someone to get the top banana, he’ll use all the pressure he has available to get Libby or Rove or someone else to flip if that is where he feels the law will take him.
More importantly, it may not be readily apparent to those of us watching the indictments come down what his strategy is. Is a perjury charge against Karl Rove just a perjury charge? Maybe, but I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt he’s after Bush himself, but the Vice President is certainly a real possibility and I don’t think it’s beyond comprehension that if Rove thought it would help George Bush, he’d throw Cheney under a bus–and if I can figure that out, so can Patrick Fitzgerald.
We’ll hear some people try and defend the Administration by attacking Fitzgerald. Some attempts like Hutchison’s hystrically and hypocritically critizicizing perjury charges won’t work because of their audacity. Others may make some headway, but that’s the thing–attacking him for ‘just’ a perjury charge, misses that he uses such charges as a stepping stone, not just to put a notch in his belt. It may well be that the person with the perjury charge is the person with the least to worry about.