Jurors who convicted former governor George Ryan on all counts in his federal corruption trial on Monday said that testimony about a shady deal for a South Holland drivers license facility played a major role in their decision.
Jurors stressed that they weighed all of the evidence, but they said that a former top aide’s testimony that included details about the transfer of a Lake Calumet drivers facility to South Holland weighed heavily in their verdict convicting Ryan,72, and co-defendant Lawrence Warner,67, on racketeering, mail and tax fraud charges.
“For anyone who sat there and listened to all of the evidence, it wasn’t a smoking gun,” said juror Kevin Rein, “but I think it hurt.”
The first witness when the trial began last fall was Ryan’s chief of staff when he was secretary of state, Scott Fawell. He testified about a cash-back bribery scheme that FBI agents said resulted in a lucrative state contract to acquire the property for the South Holland facility from Ryan’s friend, currency exchange magnate Harry Klein.
Prosecutors alleged that Ryan personally negotiated a state lease for a driver’s facility in South Holland. Ryan did not take the stand during the 23-week trial.
Several of the jurors said they would have liked to hear from the former governor directly.
“Everybody would have,” Rein, of west suburban Glen Ellyn said. “Did it have an impact? No. That’s his choice.”
Nine jury members ?” six women and three men ?” opted to appear at a press conference at the Dirksen Federal Building after the verdict was read Monday.
During the news conference on another floor of the Dirksen Building jury forewoman Sonja Chambers said that jurors “were a great team. We took our time. We deliberated. We looked at the evidence. We looked at both sides.”
All of the jurors who spoke Monday said Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer’s decision to dismiss two jurors and start anew with replacements after eight days of deliberations did not have any effect on their discussions.
“We hadn’t gotten that far,” Rein said. He brushed aside recent news reports that one of the dismissed jurors, Evelyn Ezell, was angling for an acquittal.
But they admitted that there were some “friction” in the jury room with heated arguments on some issues.
“It wasn’t anything personal. Things happened, people apologized.” Rein said. “From what I’ve been told, it was normal.”