CHICAGO (AP) – Patrick Fitzgerald has prosecuted mobsters, terrorists, a White House aide and two Illinois governors.
On Thursday, the former top prosecutor got a crack at Socrates. Yes, that Socrates, the Greek philosopher.
Fitzgerald, one of the nation’s highest profile federal prosecutors until he recently entered private practice, represented Athens in a do-over of the 399 B.C. trial of Socrates on charges of corrupting the ancient city’s youth and disrespecting its gods.
Socrates’ legal counsel at the mock trial in Chicago _ part of a fundraising event for the National Hellenic Museum _ was no slouch himself.
It was Dan Webb, a high-priced lawyer who defended former Gov. George Ryan in a corruption case brought by Fitzgerald. Ryan eventually lost at a trial prosecuted by assistant attorneys working for Fitzgerald.
The result Thursday night? Jurors _ an audience of around 1,000 people _ found Socrates guilty by a narrow vote. They spared the philosopher death by hemlock, however, and called for a fine instead.
As U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Fitzgerald gained a reputation for getting defendants to plead out before trial. But he told The Associated Press by phone hours before Thursday’s event that a last-minute plea deal with Socrates was out of reach.
“Socrates,” he explained, “does not seem to be much of a compromiser.”
In the 24 centuries since Socrates’ trial and execution by poison hemlock, the prevailing sentiment has been that Athens railroaded the 70-year-old gadfly, who was fond of questioning bedrock Athenian assumptions about the world.
Fitzgerald, though, complained that the only extensive account of the trial is from Plato, a student and booster of Socrates.
“I don’t think Athenians ever got a fair shake. Plato only gave one side of the story,” he said.
Impiety was seen as an egregious crime in ancient Greece, Fitzgerald’s co-counsel told jurors Thursday night, because it was thought that an individual’s disrespect of the gods could invite their wrath in the form of plagues that would devastate the entire city.
“He dissed Zeus … He called the Moon dirt,” said Pat Collins, another former prosecutor representing Athens. “Messing with the gods brings real harm … The gods have a memory, and they carry a grudge”
One judge presiding over the retrial was Richard Posner, who sits on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Socrates was “a crank” who “encouraged the brats of Athens,” he said, but wasn’t a threat to society.
In that vein, another of the presiding judges said he could only see fit to impose a minimal fine in light of the jury’s decision Thursday night.
“I’d fine him two bucks and let it go at that,” said William Bauer, another federal judge.
The retrial wasn’t meant to be a reenactment and so participating attorneys and judges weren’t required to don togas or other period garb, Fitzgerald said gratefully earlier in the day.
“There are crimes against nature, too,” he laughed. “That would be a crime against nature if we showed up in a togas.”
Follow Michael Tarm at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- A preseason guide to avoid holiday weight gain
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier