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Former Gov. Found Guilty on All Counts
by Andrew Davis
2006-04-19

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A federal jury April 17 convicted former Gov. George Ryan—who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for commuting the state's death sentences—on all charges that he steered state business to cronies in return for vacations and other perks when he was secretary of state.

Lobbyist Lawrence Warner, a cohort of Ryan, was also found guilty on all charges against him.

After 10 days of deliberations, the jury—composed of six men and six women—found Ryan, 72, guilty on 18 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, false statements and tax violations. Warner, 67, was convicted on 12 counts of mail fraud, extortion, racketeering, money laundering and evading cash-reporting requirements.

Deliberations surrounding the historic trial did not proceed smoothly. Three weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer excused two jurors after they had apparently hidden arrest records during jury selection in September. Pallmeyer added two alternates in their place and ordered that deliberations restart from scratch on March 29. The initial eight-day deliberations had been plagued by apparent infighting among jurors.

Then, WLS-AM talk-radio host Roe Conn said that a listener idenitified only as a man identified as Dennis the Dry Cleaner called him, claiming that a juror discussed the trial—a move that is not allowed. Pallmeyer conducted a brief inquiry that was sealed out of privacy concerns.

The trial took over five months, as prosecutors portrayed Ryan as a shameless, greedy politician at the center of a series of dirty deals, including a $25 million IBM computer deal that he supposedly steered to his friends and political insiders. On the other hand, the defense contended that the evidence was insufficient, arguing that not a single witness saw Ryan take money to influence his decisions and criticizing some government witnesses for altering their testimony.

Neither Ryan nor Warner testified.

The charges stemmed from an eight-year investigation of corruption that started at the drivers licensing bureau and eventually reached the governor's office.

On Feb. 14, Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, was called to testify; he only spoke about his professional relationship with the ex-governor. After learning of the verdict, he told Windy City Times that 'it angers and disappoints me when an elected official gets involved in this kind of activity' but added that 'one has to respect the decision of the jury.' Reflecting his testimony during the case, McKeon talked about how Ryan was concerned about LGBT as well as HIV/AIDS-related causes.

'The evidence seemed pretty overwhelming,' Mckeon said on the verdict. However, he did add that he was taken aback that Ryan was found guilty on every count. McKeon said he expects Ryan to be sentenced to some significant jail time, based on federal guidelines.

Other politicians have also weighed in. Judy Baar Topinka, the current state treasurer who in November will be vying for the governor's seat, said in a statement that ' [ t ] his trial and subsequent verdict exposes abuses of power, ethical lapses, failures in judgment and a pattern of corruption in Illinois government.'

Ryan faces up to 20 years for racketeering conspiracy, the most serious of the charges. His sentencing date is Aug. 4.


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