Prosecutor takes on Socrates in mock trial
BY Associated Press
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 5:59 AM
CHICAGO (AP) - Patrick Fitzgerald has prosecuted mobsters, terrorists, a White House aide and two Illinois governors.
On Thursday, he got a crack at Socrates. Yes, that Socrates.
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 the Greek philosopher on charges of corrupting the ancient city's youth and disrespecting its gods.
Socrates' legal counsel at the mock trial - part of fundraising event for the National Hellenic Museum - was no slouch himself.
It was Dan Webb, a 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? The jury - an audience of more than 1,000 people - found Socrates guilty but spared him death by hemlock and fined him instead.
Fitzgerald has 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 appeared 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 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," he said. "Plato only gave one side of the story."
The retrial wasn't meant to be a reenactment. It was meant to be a modern take on the famous case, meaning participating attorneys and judges won't don togas, Fitzgerald said.
"There are crimes against nature, too," he quipped. "That would be a crime against nature if we showed up in a togas."