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Local lawyer named to corruption fighting Chicago prosecutor job

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has nominated Chicago attorney Zachary Fardon to be the U.S. prosecutor in Chicago, which has seen the indictments of many top local politicians and mob figures, the two U.S. senators from Illinois announced on Thursday.

If approved by the Senate, Fardon would fill the job formerly held by Patrick Fitzgerald, who was brought in from New York in 2001 to get tough on local politicians.

Fitzgerald stepped down last June after presiding over several high-profile cases, including the convictions of former Illinois governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich and former media mogul Conrad Black.

Fitzgerald also handled the perjury prosecution of former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as well as multiple terrorism, gang and drug cases.

Fardon was one of four attorneys with Illinois ties recommended for nomination by Senators Richard Durbin, a Democrat, and Mark Kirk, a Republican.

A graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and a former federal prosecutor in both Chicago and Tennessee, Fardon has experience prosecuting violent crimes and public corruption. He worked on the trial team that prosecuted Ryan and currently heads the Chicago litigation department at the law firm of Latham & Watkins.

Durbin and Kirk praised Fardon in a joint news release.

"Fardon is an outstanding pick to continue Patrick Fitzgerald's tradition of aggressively prosecuting criminal activity that threatens northern Illinois and lead our state in the fight against dangerous drug gangs and gun violence," said Kirk, in the statement.

Durbin said he spoke with Fardon Thursday and advised him he would have to "hit the ground running and immediately focus on daily gang and drug violence plaguing the streets of Chicago."

Fardon's nomination must be approved by the full U.S. Senate. Until a nominee is confirmed, Gary Shapiro will continue to serve as acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Fitzgerald has gone into private law practice in Chicago.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Andre Grenon)

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