Over twenty-five years ago two young men were just getting their start in Liberty County. Young and idealistic and wanting to make a difference no doubt, former Liberty County Judge Phil Fitzgerald and District Attorney Mike Little were being sworn into office for the first time over a quarter of a century ago. Little vowed that day to run the district attorney’s office like “no man is above the law and no man is below it.” No doubt Fitzgerald had the same high standards foremost in his mind in the beginning.
Little was only 29 years old and had only been in private practice for a few short years. After working for Taylor and Norwood from 1978 to 1983, Little was appointed by Democratic Governor Mark White to serve as district attorney for Liberty and Chambers counties. Fitzgerald’s career was similar in that he received a great deal of power and responsibility while in his twenties, but his route to becoming Liberty County Judge was after spending years as the Justice of the Peace.
Both men built up an empire through the years. Currently, Mike Little has four assistant district attorneys and several investigators working for a district attorneys’ office that was much smaller under predecessor District Attorney W.G. Woods. His budget has increased exponentially. Fitzgerald’s empire and influence was growing at the same time. He acquired land and private businesses on the side, while becoming the heir apparent to former Liberty County Judge Lloyd Kirkham.
The parallels do not end there. At the top of their game, 2008 saw both of them head toward their Waterloo. In 2008 one of the two neighboring counties that have shared the district attorney’s office for years worked very hard to free themselves from Mike Little. After years of people in Chambers County suffering separately, people got together in Chambers County and pushed Mike Little out of their lives. In the same time frame Fitzgerald who by then was Liberty County Judge started to have people converge and ask questions about the way he was using his power. The courts forced him to pay both sides legal fees, over $100,000, as he was no longer allowed to oversee the Jessica Vickery Trust after trying to contract to sell lumber off of her land and claim it was his. Fitzgerald’s troubles were compounded by the infamous FEMA scheme where Fitzgerald was indicted for trying to cover a money trail of over $600,000 of FEMA by using friends and family.
Over 25 years ago they began building the empires we see crumbling today. Both men would have told you then the same things we read about them saying now. They say they were motivated by a desire to serve the public and a desire to see that justice was done. Little even is quoted as saying recently that “it’s just as important to see that the innocent are not prosecuted as it is to see that the guilty ones are.” Both men have honed their ability to speak and charm the public but comments like this ring hollow amidst multiple allegations of Little’s selective prosecution and recent revelations of allegations in the Michael Lynn Blue case of homosexual misconduct on the part of Mike Little. Both men publicly claiming their dependence on God almost seems harmful to those who want to believe in a God but do not. Words and titles like “deacon” almost make their falls from grace worse rather than some idea of innocence they may hope to create with the public.
The Fitzgerald trial is in the near future and Liberty County’s problems with Mike Little will no doubt be dealt with in coming months, but in the meantime citizens can take comfort that we have a new county judge. We can take some comfort in knowing at least that the majority of the cases Little personally prosecutes are political cases and his ADAs handle the rest of the caseload. But the Liberty County DA’s Office sees around 50-75 indictments per month and Mike Little has recently been quoted in the media as having said, “Becoming personal with a case is a good thing. It makes it hard to sleep at night until it is finished” - a scary thought from someone accused of selective prosecution and official oppression.
And a not so scary thought for those who are friends of this District Attorney like Phil Fitzgerald. The two Democrats integrity and their view of the good ole boy system seems to be most evident when reading about Mike Little’s decision to push evidence back across the table and tell investigators not to pursue the evidence they brought to him of Fitzgerald’s misappropriation of FEMA’s emergency equipment. Evidence of a place and time when these two men’s spiraling downward coincided exactly.