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Former Illinois Gov. Ryan Found Guilty of Fraud

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And now on to another trial. After 11 days of deliberations, a federal jury in Chicago has convicted former Illinois Governor George Ryan on 18 counts including counts of racketeering, fraud and lying to federal agents. Ryan's trial lasted nearly half a year, and the trial was the culmination of a long investigation of corruption when Ryan's was Illinois Secretary of State. Chicago Public Radio's Diantha Parker reports.

DIANTHA PARKER reporting:

Spectators in the courtroom strained to see if Ryan would show any emotion, and they were disappointed. The former governor who gained international attention when he commuted all Illinois death sentences before leaving office sat calmly, although his wife and family members wiped their eyes after the verdict was read.

Soon after that Ryan delivered a short statement in the lobby of the courthouse, profusely thanking his team of attorneys, and saying none of this was over.

Mr. GEORGE RYAN (Former Governor, Illinois): I believe this decision today is, is, is not in accordance with the kind of public service that I provided to the people of Illinois over 40 years. And needless to say I am disappointed in the outcome. But I feel confident in, in our appeal, and there will be an appeal.

PARKER: Government attorneys say they're prepared. They say the jury's verdict backs up their central argument, that Ryan steered lucrative contracts and leases to well-placed friends. And accepted cash, free vacations, and other perks in return. Ryan was tried along with one of these friends, businessman Larry Warner. He was found guilty on all counts against him, including extortion.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins, who lead the case, says the evidence was complex, but clearly pointed to guilt.

Mr. PATRICK COLLINS (Assistant U.S. Attorney): It had political corruption fraud in the sense of diverting state resources for political gain, it had lying to the FBI, it had tax fraud, and then it had, what doesn't happen in every case, which is the ability to show tangible effects of corruption. That is, lives are at stake.

PARKER: Collins also lead the government's investigation of the Illinois Secretary of State's office. 79 former state officials, lobbyists, and others have been charged with related crimes in the eight years since it began. 74 have been convicted, and none acquitted. The deliberations in this case were difficult. Juror Denise Peterson said she was confident she and the 11 other jurors had done their job well.

Ms. DENISE PETERSON (Juror): We looked at all the witnesses, and we all took such great notes. I mean this, this was a serious matter. Nobody thought it was funny, nobody, it was a job. And that's how we consider it, it was a job.

PARKER: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called the verdict and the investigation depressing. He found it most surprising that the former governor didn't change his behavior after he was aware he was being investigated.

Mr. PATRICK FITZGERALD (Prosecuting Attorney): And the reaction to the end of 1994 was for Mr. Ryan not to end the practice, but to end the investigations and try to move, move the investigators out. That is a low water mark for public service, to have a governor, secretary of state, abuse his office in that fashion.

PARKER: Ryan is free on bond while awaiting sentencing, which has been set for August 4th. For NPR News, I'm Diantha Parker in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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