Former aide to Gov. Ryan sentenced to 6 1/2 years

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

CHICAGO -- Former Gov. George Ryan's longtime top aide, Scott Fawell, was sentenced Monday to 6 1/2 years in prison for a wide-ranging racketeering scheme involving fraud, perjury and political fund-raising.

The usually tough, outgoing Fawell's voice broke with emotion and he couldn't go on as he tried to read a statement expressing regret for his role in the scandal that forced Ryan's retirement after just one term.

"The experience I have suffered through has left a black mark on my family name," Fawell said as his mother, former state Sen. Beverly Fawell, looked on. "I would like to say I'm sorry for the pain this process has caused my family and thank them for all their love."

"I would like to express my regret for the actions I took that were the focus of this case," Fawell said. At that point, he stopped, overcome with emotion, and defense attorney Edward M. Genson read the remainder.

Fawell, 46, chief of staff when Ryan was secretary of state in the 1990s and later his gubernatorial campaign manager, was convicted March 19 of racketeering, tax fraud, perjury and conspiracy to destroy evidence.

He is the highest ranking person among 63 charged and 57 convicted so far in the sweeping, five-year federal investigation of corruption prosecutors say was widespread in the secretary of state's office.

Ryan has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing to date, although prosecutors trace $170,000 in payoff money to his campaign fund and said at trial he was Fawell's "co-schemer." He declined to seek a second term.

The investigation was launched in 1998 to focus on bribes paid in return for licenses for unqualified truck drivers. But it has expanded into a wide-ranging probe of political corruption in the Ryan years.

Witnesses at the seven-week trial testified Fawell ordered state workers to do campaign work on state time in elections stretching back to the early 1990s and used state resources ranging from cars and parking spaces to a refrigerator and a television set to help with the campaign.

They said he dismantled the inspector general's staff within the secretary of state's office in 1995 to prevent investigators there from looking into fund-raising irregularities involving drivers licenses.

Prosecutors say Fawell put so much pressure on state workers to come up with campaign contributions for Ryan that they had to take bribes. Fawell attorney's say he never pressured anyone into taking a bribe.

Prosecutors also say Fawell doled out lucrative contracts to a consultant who took him on free trips to Costa Rica. Defense attorneys say there was nothing wrong with the contracts.

Following the sentencing, Fawell talked with reporters and admitted that he had made mistakes.

He said he was disappointed former friends had become government witnesses but said they couldn't withstand the pressure from prosecutors.

"They are ruthless," Fawell said. He said it was easy to make mistakes in politics.

"It's a pretty rough and tumble business -- always has been, always will be," Fawell said. "I wish I could go back and change some of the things I did. But do I consider myself a criminal? Absolutely not."

Fawell said he thought he might have gotten a deal to serve less time "if I'm going to go in there and tell stories about George Ryan. But I'm not sitting on any bomb of George Ryan's."

That evidently meant he had no evidence against Ryan. He said he would not concoct any incriminating stories.

"I have to live with myself," Fawell said. "I'm not going to go in there and sell myself out like that to save myself."

The sentencing range under federal guidelines called 70 to 87 months. Pallmeyer's sentence split that down the middle.

Pallmeyer turned down a government request that could have sent Fawell to prison for as much as 11 years for disrupting state government.

She said there wasn't all that much disruption and added that at least some of it could be attributed to Dean Bauer, the secretary of state's inspector general who went to prison for obstruction of justice.

Pallmeyer also turned down a defense request for a break on grounds corruption has been pervasive in Illinois and Fawell had no idea that he would be prosecuted for it. She said it was plain Fawell knew what he was doing was wrong. She set Nov. 8 for him to report to federal prison.

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