Former Illinois governor won't testify at his racketeering trial

Thursday, February 23, 2006

CHICAGO -- Former Illinois governor George Ryan will not testify in his own defense at his racketeering and fraud trial, his chief defense counsel said Wednesday.

Attorney Dan K. Webb told the federal judge he had recommended that Ryan decline to testify because he did not believe the government had proved its case.

The question of whether Ryan would take the witness stand has been hanging over the trial for weeks.

By testifying, Ryan would be able to tell his side of the scandal that has dominated state politics in Illinois for several years. But he also would have opened himself up to a detailed cross examination from tough federal prosecutors who have been working on the corruption investigation since 1998 -- before he was elected governor.

Webb also confirmed that Ryan's co-defendant, Larry Warner, was not planning to take the witness stand either, signaling that the five-month trial was nearing its final stage.

Webb said the defense was likely to rest this morning.

Ryan, 71, and Warner, 67, are charged in a 22-count federal indictment with racketeering, mail fraud and other offenses. Prosecutors say Ryan steered big-money state leases and contracts to Warner and other political friends, making them rich at the state's expense.

Prosecutors contend that Ryan, as secretary of state for eight years in the 1990s and governor for one term starting in 1999, was repaid with free vacations and gifts.

Both Ryan and Warner say nothing they did was illegal.

Dozens of former state officials, lobbyists, truck drivers and others have been charged in the corruption investigation. More than 70 have been convicted.

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