Subscribe for 33¢ / day

CHICAGO - Cook County's former chief prosecutor told George Ryan's racketeering and fraud trial Monday that the former governor never urged him to go easy on state employees suspected of corruption or refraining from investigating them.

"That never happened, did it?" Ryan defense attorney Dan K. Webb asked Jack O'Malley, the former Cook County state's attorney and now an Illinois Appellate Court justice.

"It never happened," O'Malley said.

The testimony appeared to directly contradict Jan. 4 testimony from another Illinois Appellate Court justice, Patrick Quinn, who told jurors about a 1992 news conference at which they jointly announced corruption charges against two secretary of state's employees.

Ryan was secretary of state at the time and the employees were accused of selling bogus drivers licenses.

Quinn had testified that O'Malley suggested stepping up investigation of drivers license corruption and Ryan responded in the negative with a strong oath, adding, "Those are my guys."

Ryan, 71, and businessman Larry Warner, 67, are charged in a 22-count federal indictment with racketeering, mail fraud and other offenses. It accuses Ryan of misusing his state offices for his own financial and political advantage.

Ryan and Warner say nothing they did was illegal.

At the time of the 1992 news conference, O'Malley was state's attorney and Quinn was working under him as a supervisor in the state's attorney's public corruption unit.

O'Malley acknowledged that he had known Ryan for years through his association with former Gov. James R. Thompson, head of Chicago's big Winston & Strawn law firm where he once worked and Webb and other members of Ryan's defense team still do.

O'Malley's testimony came as the trial began Week 19.

Also taking the stand as a defense witness was Paula Taylor, a veteran state employee who once worked at the Lake Calumet truck drivers licensing center.

Ryan moved the licensing center from Lake Calumet in Chicago's oceangoing port area at the southeast corner of the city to a suburban South Holland building owned by currency exchange mogul Harry Klein, his host on annual winter vacations in Jamaica.

Ryan says he moved the licensing center because the Lake Calumet site was unsuitable. Prosecutors claim he did it to oblige Klein, who was looking for a tenant for his building.

Taylor said the port area was infested with large rats and that the building used by the secretary of state's office had mice. She said the plumbing and air conditioning often failed. Opening a window was a problem because of a nearby landfill and a dead-fish smell, she said.

Another witness, retired state purchasing agent Jack L. Gooding of Springfield testified that state laws requiring competitive bidding were followed when Ryan's secretary of state's office purchased a digital imaging system for photos on Illinois drivers licenses.

The contract went to Massachusetts-based Viisage Technologies and prosecutors say Warner received $834,000 in lobbying fees from the company, or 5 percent of its gross revenues from business it did with the secretary of state's office.

Gooding said his job was to see that the bidding was done properly and "to have all the i's dotted and all of the t's crossed."

"And did you accomplish what you set out to do?" asked Warner attorney Carolyn Gurland.

"I'm proud to say that we did," Gooding said.

Prosecutors say, however, that the contract was fixed before Gooding ever heard about it. At the initial bid opening in March 1997, there was only one bid - that of Viisage. Gooding said that was unsatisfactory and another round was held a month later. At that time, Viisage beat out its only rival, Unisys.

Gooding testified that he had been a purchasing and procurement agent in Springfield for 19 years but never had heard of either Al Ronan or Ron Swanson, two former lawmakers and prominent lobbyists. Ronan represented Unisys and Swanson got $36,000 from Viisage through Warner.

0
0
0
0
0

Load comments