Friday, September 30, 2005

Illinois' own Georgie-boy

Due to the length of this column, it will be broken out into two, or possibly three parts, I haven’t decided yet…when I know, you’ll know.

Part 1 of 3 (or I could go the Douglas Adams route and do a 4-part Trilogy…ok, only a quarter of the people reading this entry got that joke, but that’s ok, they are the smarter, liberal ones anyway)

While my esteemed colleague has decided to write about Rep. Tom DeLay’s indictment, I’ve decided to write about another Republican, who some of you may know –even if you live outside of Illinois. I am talking about former Illinois governor, George Ryan. Today’s entry will focus on the defense and it’s position/view. The second will focus on the prosecution’s case, and part three will explore Ryan and his relationships with his ‘inner circle’. Exciting? Maybe. A must-read? Sure.

(Now, I am a Liberal, which I am fairly sure all of you reading this blog knew. I am also a registered Democrat. But, when Ryan ran for Governor years ago, and I want you all to know I could be excommunicated from my family AND this blog for telling you this, I voted for him…yes, me, the conservative-chasing, GOP ‘making-fun-of,' liberal. I just thought he would do a better job than the democratic nominee…I was wrong. VERY wrong. And I regret it to this day)

Ryan and a co-defendant, Lawrence Warner, are charged in a 22-count indictment with racketeering, mail and tax fraud and making false statements (a politician making false statements? Well – I am shocked and appalled.)

(For years, since Ryan left office people have been asking, is he a scheming politician who used his position to help himself and his friends? Or is he, as his defense attorney contends, an overly trusting friend who was unaware of the criminal activity sometimes occurring around him? So unaware that it was happening right under his nose)

Ryan strode into court with the same confidence and poise he exhibited as governor. He greeted the packed gallery of spectators with warm hellos and handshakes before taking his seat at the defense table.

During opening statements, the prosecutor portrayed Ryan as a politician who betrayed the publics trust by doling out a slew of state contracts and leases to friends who rewarded Ryan and his family with gifts, vacations and money. (A politician taking kickbacks and gifts in return for political favors? Again, I am shocked and appalled!)

The defense portrayed Ryan as a simple (their word – not mine) family man who never took a corrupt nickel in his political life (a politician who NEVER took a corrupt nickel? Now that I cannot believe).

Dan Webb, Ryan's chief lawyer, pounded away at the perceived Achilles' heel of the government's case, telling jurors that "not a single, solitary witness" will testify that Ryan ever pocketed a corrupt dollar while in office.

The trial--the first of a former governor in Illinois in three decades--opened in a courtroom packed with spectators and reporters, many of who waited more than 1 1/2 hours to get a seat. (Much like the Michael Jackson trial…though that one featured someone who can be classified as “flamboyant”, to put it nicely. Ryan on the other hand, looks, and is, somebody’s grandpa. Granted, he’s a grandpa who is on trial and could be forced to go to prison, but a grandpa all the same.)

One thing that is becoming clear in the early days of the trial is the fact that this case is shaping up to be the hardest fought trial in Illinois’ Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in years. So much in fact that after the jury had been sent home for the day, lawyers from both sides over concerns about the testimony of the government's first star witness, Ryan's former right-hand man, Scott Fawell.Webb pushed five major themes in his opening statement:

1 . That no witness would implicate Ryan in corrupt payoffs. (We’ll see about this one, I think the state may have a ‘secret weapon’, read: a surprise witness, waiting in the wings)

2. The state wasn't cheated in the contract and lease deals. (Again, we’ll see…)

3. Ryan's financial status belies a life of corruption. (This one may cause the prosecution the largest problem. Mr. Ryan lives, and was born, in the town I currently live in, so I have seen him around town and he goes to my church. His house is not huge, he doesn’t have big, expensive cars, and he doesn’t, necessarily, dress like he has a lot of money. My problem with that argument though is that he is a smart man and has a sharp political mind and would know better to not flaunt that type of financial status in order to not create a look of impropriety) Webb has stated that his modest lifestyle (he has lived with wife, Lura Lynn, in the same house for 40 years and owns no stocks or vacation home) isn't the picture of a corrupt politician "taking money hand over fist," Webb said. However, the prosecution stated that Ryan always carried a wad of cash, even though he rarely withdrew money from his banking account. (ala William Gibson: Verrrryyyyy interesting….)

4. Key government witnesses have major credibility problems. (Who doesn’t when talking about a political trial? And that goes for both sides)

5. Helping out political supporters isn't a crime. (Not technically, and it’s done by almost every other politician in almost every other country – so that could derail the prosecutions case)

Ryan’s attorney also alleges that the government put enormous pressure on Fawell and other witnesses to implicate Ryan in wrongdoing, raising concerns that witnesses might slant or exaggerate their testimony as a result. (That, I do not believe would happen…do you?)Webb also displayed excerpts of newspaper accounts from the day of Fawell's sentencing. At that time, Fawell stated he wouldn't make up lies about Ryan to save his own skin. (Of course not, no one ever has or ever would say lies in order to save their own skin, right? [rolls eyes]) Webb continued on by saying that Fawell decided to cooperate in a bid to spare fiancée Alexandra Coutretsis, a former Fawell aide (with privileges…), a prison sentence.Fawell's only view out of his Terre Haute, Indiana prison cell was of the death chambers

(Do people really think this was a factor in Fawell’s decision? If so, are these people morons? He took bribes, kickbacks, gifts, etc., for helping certain people get jobs or contracts. It is NOT, especially in this country, something someone would be put to death for. If it were, there would be a LOT fewer politicians in this country right about now – and Tom DeLay, Karl Rove and Stephen Frist would all be sweating bullets. I am almost positive Fawell would have known that, If he didn’t, then the case is going to fall apart anyway because Fawell is too stupid live, much less lie)

Webb stated that he hopes to prove that the contracts and leases in question were not good old-fashioned political boondoggles, but were actually sound, legitimate deals that benefited the state and were awarded properly with input from others in the secretary of state's office.

Come back tomorrow for part 2...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

George Ryan is nothing but a scapegoat. Fawell is the real brains behind all the charges against him. Get a clue

And I'm a Conservative who knows what Hitchiker Guide to Galxy is