Weather Updates

Socrates convicted — again, 2,400 years later

Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald defends city Athens retrial Socrates while.former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb defends Greek philosopher retrial thserves

Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald defends the city of Athens in a retrial of Socrates while.former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb defends the Greek philosopher in a retrial that serves as a fundraiser for Chicago's National Hellenic Museum. Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

storyidforme: 43940098
tmspicid: 16270331
fileheaderid: 7313526
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: February 1, 2013 9:28AM

He brought down mob bosses, an Elvis-impersonating governor and al-Qaida terrorists — and now former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald can add ancient Greek philosopher Socrates to the list.

And though a group of 900 Chicagoans reaffirmed the 2,400-year-old convictions of corrupting the youth and disrespecting the Gods, the masses did not agree with the original sentence of death by drinking poison Hemlock.

Perhaps fitting in a state that outlawed the death penalty, Socrates was instead fined and sentenced to home confinement.

While imagining a ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton was ancient Greece for the mock trial Thursday night, leading legal minds in the country tangled over the fate of the 70-year-old war veteran known for being ugly, unwashed, not wearing shoes — and setting a standard for Western Civilization by questioning everything.

Former assistant U.S. attorney Patrick Collins again teamed up with Fitzgerald to do battle with Socrates’ equally formidable defense team consisting of former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb and personal injury attorney Bob Clifford. All this despite the fact that Socrates actually defended himself.

Fitzgerald argued that history’s view of the original conviction is biased because the only records of the trial are written by Socrates’ student and friend, Plato.

He urged jurors to give the Athenians, “who had the full trial transcripts,” the benefit of the doubt.

Collins mixed Athenian and Chicago lore in his appeal to convict Socrates of creating and worshiping a new God:

“You cannot dis the Gods, the Gods are jealous. The Gods hold a grudge. For God’s sakes even here in America in 1945 a man brings a goat into Wrigley field — there has not been a World Series game in Wrigley since. The God’s have a memory!”

Presiding Judge Richard A. Posner — who sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals — equated the charge of corrupting the youth to the modern era charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“Socrates would teach young men, for over 50 years, things such as virtue, he’d teach them a method of thinking about their lives and the problems they encounter in their lives,” said Webb, who, unlike his fellow attorneys, maintained a serious tone throughout.

“The accusers have told you he taught young people to disrespect democracy ... and engage in violence and threaten the democracy of Athens.”

The mock trial was presented by the National Hellenic Museum. A jury of leading politicians, lawyers and media stars joined members of the audience in voting for a verdict and recommended sentence.

After arguments, Posner said he couldn’t give the death sentence to a “70-year-old loudmouth.”

His co-judges also weighed in on the amount Socrates should be fined.

Anna H. Demacopoulos, a Cook County criminal judge, suggested 3,000 silver drachmas.

“I’d fine him two bucks and let it go at that,” said William J. Bauer, who also sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.