The Prosecutor: The Mystery Man; Patrick Fitzgerald Has Sent a Reporter to Jail and Pulled Back the Curtain on Top Staffers' Press Chats. Does He Have a Case?

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Darman and Michael Isikoff

Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1970s, Patrick Fitzgerald was so determined to attend the prestigious Regis High School that even a rejection letter couldn't keep him away. When his carefully prepared application was denied, Fitzgerald dialed up Regis's director of admissions and protested that there must have been some mistake. Sure enough, the school had mixed up his entrance exam with that of another Patrick Fitzgerald of Brooklyn who got lower marks. The right Patrick Fitzgerald entered Regis that fall.

Now, Washington is wondering if it's gotten Patrick Fitzgerald wrong, too. For nearly two years, the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak investigation has been the city's mystery man, pursuing a murky investigation whose only targets seemed to be members of the press. But as new details emerge about White House efforts to discredit Iraq-war critic Joe Wilson and his CIA agent wife, Washington insiders are seeing Fitzgerald in a new light. Maybe his hard-nosed investigation will do more than just punish reporters. Maybe Fitzgerald's leak investigation will actually uncover who leaked.

To Fitzgerald's friends, the reassessment is long overdue. They point to his record as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York (he brought charges against figures ranging from the Gambino crime family to the Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman to Osama bin Laden) as proof that he is pursuing the greater good. Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney who was Fitzgerald's boss in the Southern District, recommended him for his current assignment as U.S. attorney in Chicago. His strength, she says, lies in how he "exercises his power with a real recognition of how awesome it is... He has a strong sense of the nuance. …