- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — Former Gov. George Ryan “might as well have put up a ‘For Sale’ sign” over his office door, prosecutors said yesterday as closing arguments got under way at his racketeering and fraud trial.

“You’ve heard of the 12 days of Christmas,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Levin told jurors. “This was 12 years of Christmas” for Mr. Ryan, his friends and family.

“This was a case about corruption at the highest levels,” Mr. Levin said, summing up 22 weeks of witness testimony that started in late September. “This is a case about the betrayal of trust.”

Mr. Ryan, 72, and longtime friend Larry Warner, 67, a lobbyist, were charged in a 22-count federal indictment with racketeering, mail fraud and other offenses.

The indictment says that as secretary of state for eight years in the 1990s and as governor for one term, Mr. Ryan steered state leases and contracts to Mr. Warner and other friends. In return, he was rewarded with free vacations, loans for his brother’s business and even money to pay the band at his daughter’s wedding reception, prosecutors say.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Warner say nothing they did was illegal.

Defense lawyer Bradley E. Lerman moved for a mistrial yesterday in a dispute over a presentation Mr. Levin was making to the jury. Mr. Lerman said it included material concerning a 1995 crash that killed six children and had been ruled out as so emotional it could prejudice the jurors. The crash was part of the initial investigation that later turned to corruption in state government.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer did not rule immediately on the motion.

Sitting solemn-faced in the spectator seats were the Rev. Scott Willis and his wife, Janet, whose six children were killed in the fiery accident involving a truck driver whose driver’s license was obtained with payoff money from a woman raising campaign funds for Mr. Ryan.

Closing arguments are scheduled for a total of 22 hours over four days, with the jury expected to hear a lengthy list of instructions on Friday.

Mr. Ryan’s chief defense counsel, Dan K. Webb, plans to tell the jury in his closing that Mr. Ryan made “good-faith decisions” intended to give Illinois its money’s worth.

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