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Illinois Aide Guilty of Corruption

March 20, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — A top aide to former Gov. George Ryan was found guilty on all counts Wednesday by a federal jury in a corruption case stemming from the eight-year period that Ryan was Illinois' secretary of state.

Scott Fawell, 45, is the top official charged thus far in the five-year federal probe of alleged corruption that took place while Ryan was secretary of state, before his gubernatorial election in 1998. Fawell was chief of staff to Ryan in the secretary of state's office; he also was Ryan's 1998 campaign manager.

The jury also found Ryan's campaign committee guilty on all counts. The former governor, who decided not to run for a second term and left office in January, was not charged in the case.

The eight-week trial threw into sharp focus the underside of Illinois politics, creating a fresh chapter in the state's long history of patronage, payoffs and corruption in government.

Fawell did not testify, but his lawyers said anything he may have done was just business as usual in Illinois politics. If a few overzealous campaign workers went too far and violated the law, they argued, there is no way Fawell could have known.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Edward Genson said Fawell was a fall guy who became the target of "a lot of scared people who were willing to do anything" to keep from being charged. But Assistant U.S. Atty. Joel Levin said Fawell was a key man in a money-hungry political machine.

Fawell and the Citizens for Ryan campaign committee were charged in a nine-count indictment with a racketeering conspiracy that included using state employees working on state time to run Ryan campaigns for almost a decade.

Besides racketeering, Fawell was charged with mail fraud, stealing state property, conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury before a grand jury investigating the Ryan scandal.

So far, 59 former state employees and others have been charged and 53 have been convicted in a scandal that dogged Ryan when he was governor. The investigation began as a probe into the alleged trading of driver's licenses for bribes.

Fawell could face up to eight years in federal prison.

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