Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's "conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," according to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. But Mr. Fitzgerald's statement would, at the very least, make well-regarded former Attorney General Robert Jackson flinch in his. Almost seven decades ago, Jackson admonished a meeting of U.S. attorneys that they should be dedicated "to the spirit of fair play and decency . . . . A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power . . . ."
In the Dec. 9 press conference regarding the federal corruption charges against Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Mr. Fitzgerald violated the ethical requirement of the Justice Department guidelines that prior to trial a "prosecutor shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused." The prosecutor is permitted to "inform the public of the nature and extent" of the charges. In the vernacular of all of us who practice criminal law, that means the prosecutor may not go "beyond the four corners" -- the specific facts -- in the complaint or indictment. He may also provide any other public-record information, the status of the case, the names of investigators, and request assistance. But he is not permitted to make the kind of inflammatory statements Mr. Fitzgerald made during his media appearance.
She's not alone in raising an eyebrow. Professor Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit to his many fans) says:
SO, DO WE BELIEVE IN RAHM EMANUEL’S INNOCENCE, OR NOT? Personally — not that I have any inside knowledge — I doubt that Emanuel has done anything actually wrong. (He may conceivably have done something that might be considered a crime in Fitzgeraldland, but you could say that about pretty much anyone). Emanuel’s smart, as even his critics acknowledge, and surely too smart to get sucked into Blagojevich’s lowbrow deal-making. At least, I’d be surprised to hear otherwise.
So far, he's repeated his outragous conduct in the Libby case: A misleading, highly prejudicial press conference announcing the charges; suggestions that conduct is illegal when it is not (See discussion -- indeed, it is often standard politics which he is attempting to criminalize; and (as Victoria also notes) his people are leaking material which they have an obligation to keep secret at this point.
I don't like Blagojevich or any of this case of characters much, but this kind of behavior does not advance the cause of justice.