August 5, 1983 Chicago, IL
It was a Friday, and a group of lawyers--some prosecutors, some defense attorneys--had gathered in a Loop hotel on this day for a bachelor party. But the celebrating stopped when the television news broke this stunning story: For three years, the FBI had been running an undercover operation aimed at Cook County's court system. It featured at least one undercover operative and a listening device in a judge's chambers.
The allegations ranged from fixing drunken-driving cases to more serious felony charges. One lawyer was caught on tape bragging that "even a murder case can be fixed if the judge is given something to hang his hat on." By the end of the decade, nearly 100 people had been indicted, and all but a handful were convicted. Of the 17 judges indicted, 15 were convicted. The tally of convictions included 50 lawyers, as well as court clerks, police officers and sheriff's deputies.
Greylord was not the first federal investigation of public corruption in Chicago, but it was a watershed in its use of eavesdropping devices and a mole to obtain evidence instead of relying on wrongdoers to become government informants.
April 18, 2010 Chicago, IL
When federal prosecutors needed a judge's approval to launch the now-famous Operation Greylord probe of court corruption in Cook County, Richard J. Fitzgerald was their first choice.Judge Richard Fitzgerald had a stellar career and will be remembered as one of the Good Guys.
Mr. Fitzgerald, then a Cook County Criminal Court presiding judge, had a reputation for integrity that made the Justice Department feel he could be trusted with confidential information about an undercover investigation that might ensnare some of his colleagues, said Thomas P. Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Operation Greylord, which took place in the 1980s, ultimately led to the conviction of 15 judges and was the most sweeping federal crackdown on court corruption of its time. It also marked the first time the federal government was allowed to plant an electronic bug in a judge's private office.