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District Attorney William Fitzpatrick

Written By: Sierra Jiminez
Produced By: Marlei Martinez

SYRACUSE, N.Y.- He’s known for his theatrical antics in the courtroom and his straight forward personality in everyday life. During the Stacey Castor trial, his booming voice was broadcast on local television stations and news sites for the Syracuse public to see.

But Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick says he doesn’t even notice the cameras. He’s just as intense when the public isn’t watching.

“I try every case the way I tried the Stacey Castor trial,” Fitzpatrick said. “People say, ‘That was the best cross-examination I’ve ever seen.’ It wasn’t even in my top 50.”

After 17 years in office and five elections, Fitzpatrick has faced criticism from the media, the public and his opponents. In 1999, Lawyer Ralph Cognetti intended to run against Fitzpatrick for District Attorney on the basis that he was “too powerful.” But then, he changed his mind.

“I realized that I probably had no chance at beating him,” Cognetti said. “And therefore I wasn’t going to spend the time or the money… in order to run a race that I believed I would lose. When push comes to shove, he’s probably the best D.A. we’ve had, certainly since I’ve been an attorney.”

Fitzpatrick says some people may think he’s too powerful, but he disagrees. To him, he’s just doing his job.

“When I was first in this job… I wanted to be loved by everybody,” Fitzpatrick said. “Well, believe me, after months on the job… you realize you’re going to be hated by a lot of people. And the quicker you get used to that, the better public official you’re going to be.”

Despite the long hours he spends at his job and the seriousness it entails, Fitzpatrick still manages to lead a semi-normal life. He’s a die-hard Yankees fan. He plays golf on a regular basis. And he still manages to spend time with his family. “I’m not going to be one sitting around missing my kids’ little league games… and things like that,” Fitzpatrick said. “What difference does it make if you’re a great public official and your kids are all disorganized, dysfunctional and don’t even know you?”

At 56-years-old, he says he should be thinking about retirement, but he’s not. Every time a new election year comes, he hears about the need for change but he says he doesn’t think it’s time for a new D.A., just yet.

“The fact remains that he’s run five times, he’s won five times. And not by any small margins,” Cognetti said. “That, to me, is how you judge the value of a politician. If he’s not well liked, or if there’s question as to his legitimacy, or honesty… my guess and belief is that (the public will) vote him out. And they don’t.”

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