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Emanuel: New U.S. attorney needs to focus on crime, guns

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald  | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 24, 2012 5:52PM

Departing U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “set a bar” when it comes to fighting corruption, but his successor should be equally concerned about going after gangs, guns and drugs, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday.

“While a lot of the coverage has focused on dealing with public corruption, which I agree with — which is why we passed ethics laws and have been very firm about the requirements of working in public service — right now, I’m working in Springfield trying to pass a RICO law to use against the gang-bangers on our streets,” Emanuel said.

“A U.S. attorney that’s a partner with the state’s attorney and with the Chicago Police Department helping us fight gangs, helping us fight guns and gun trafficking is also an essential thing on a going-forward basis,” he said. “Not that Patrick Fitzgerald and the U.S. attorney’s office haven’t, but we need a U.S. attorney and an office that’s a full partner in fighting the gangs and guns that are on our street.”

Asked whether that meant he felt Fitzgerald hadn’t been a “full partner” in those pursuits, Emanuel said, “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.”

Emanuel said, in fact, that he called Fitzgerald on Wednesday, after the federal prosecutor announced his resignation, and “congratulated him on his time in public service.” He added, “Obviously, he has set a bar” for his successors.

Emanuel’s remarks were reminiscent of complaints that former Mayor Richard M. Daley made at times. Fitzgerald’s pursuit of corruption tied to the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals led to dozens of convictions, including those of Daley’s former patronage chief and streets and sanitation commissioner. But Daley publicly complained that the federal prosecutor should be equally concerned about fighting gangs, guns and drugs.

At a news conference Thursday, Fitzgerald made a point to say that the size of the gang and narcotics sections of the U.S. attorney’s office had doubled on his watch, now accounting for 25 percent of the office’s 168 federal prosecutors. And nearly four pages of the summary of accomplishments distributed by Fitzgerald’s office were devoted to narcotics and gang prosecutions that snared high-ranking members of several street gangs.

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