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Monday, June 08, 2009

Patrick Fitzgerald threatens to sue Peter Lance

From Newsweek:

Patrick Fitzgerald may be the most feared prosecutor in the country, but even as he's racked up headlines for big-name convictions (Scooter Libby) and indictments (Rod Blagojevich), the hard-charging U.S. attorney from Chicago has been waging a private crusade: trying to kill a book he believes maligns his reputation. In the past year and a half, Fitzgerald has written four letters to HarperCollins—owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.—demanding it "cease publication" and "withdraw" copies of Triple Cross, a 2006 book by ex–TV newsman Peter Lance that criticizes Fitzgerald's handling of terror cases in New York in the 1990s. Fitzgerald raised the temperature even more last week, aiming to halt a paperback version. "To put it plain and simple," he wrote in a June 2 letter obtained by NEWSWEEK, "if in fact you publish the book this month and it defames me or casts me in a false light, HarperCollins will be sued."

Media experts say Fitzgerald's letters, written on personal stationary and totaling 30 pages, are unusual for a top lawman. "We certainly find it highly offensive that a federal prosecutor would do something like this," says Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. But Fitzgerald makes no apologies. The book's claims, he wrote in an email, are "outrageously dishonest." He says that Lance "alleged that I deliberately misled courts and the public" in ways that led to the 9/11 attacks. A time stamp on one of the letters shows it was sent via fax from the U.S. Attorney's Office, though Fitzgerald said he was "not aware" it would be visible, and Justice permits "incidental use of fax machines" for "personal business."

New York Magazine:

HarperCollins made a series of corrections, including changes in phrasing, for the paperback edition­—which finally comes out June 16, complete with a new introduction that’s mainly about Fitzgerald’s attempts to quash the book. Last week, Fitzgerald sent one more letter, which ended with “To put it plain and simple, if in fact you publish the book this month and it defames me or casts me in a false light, HarperCollins will be sued.”

Lance is busy drumming up support—and publicity—for the book. He’s holding a press conference on the 16th, when he’ll be flanked by lefty anti-­censorship activist librarian Ann Sparanese and the lawyer played by John Travolta in A Civil Action, Jan Schlichtmann. The truth is, this may be the best thing that ever happened to Lance. “That’s the ultimate irony,” Lance says. “It wasn’t reviewed by a single U.S. publication. If Patrick Fitzgerald had not attempted to kill it, it would have just gone off into publishing obscurity. This is the true lesson of censorship.”

Fitzgerald, on the other hand, doesn’t need the attention. In response to a request put through to his office, Fitzgerald called back personally to say he had no comment, adding that on this personal matter, he could be reached only through the P.O. box.