GEORGE RYAN ON TRIAL
Cast of characters stars in drama made in Illinois
Mrs. Ryan gamely sat in a federal courtroom for a long day Wednesday listening as her husband of 49 years was described by a government lawyer as--among other things-- a crook, a schemer, greedy and corrupt.
"Every day is a good day, as long as he's here," said Mrs. Ryan, drawn and weary as she left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. She said she was just thankful that her husband remains robust and healthy at 71. They held hands as they were leaving the courthouse.
For his part, on the first day of his federal trial on public corruption charges, Ryan sat still as a statue, scarcely blinking during almost eight hours at the defendant's table. Ryan did speak up ever so briefly, twice to complain about the lawyers' mumbling: "Can't hear," he complained grumpily and at full volume.
Except for that, Ryan stared straight ahead, showing neither grin nor grimace as prosecutor Zachary Fardon took precisely 90 minutes to outline the case against Ryan, accusing him of widespread corruption when he was Illinois secretary of state and governor.
One piece of evidence that this is a historic trial was that Fardon's parents flew in at first light from their Knoxville home Wednesday morning to watch their boyish blond son deliver the government's version of Ryan's purported perfidies. Fardon, the No. 2 prosecutor in Nashville, is on special assignment to help in the case against Ryan.
Mother shows pride
Judy Fardon said afterwards that she was so proud of her son that her eyes filled with tears during his opening statement.
Using a large screen--at least 10 feet square--Fardon presented a prosecutorial slide show that featured three color photos of a Jamaican estate, "the beautiful Seven Seas villa." It was here, said Fardon, at the home of their friend Harry Klein, that George and Lura Lynn Ryan vacationed often and improperly for free.
Klein, the government says, received some $600,000 in lease payments that Ryan arranged for the secretary of state's office to lease a building Klein owned in suburban South Holland.
This was just one of many government charges outlined in red, yellow, blue and green graphics on the big screen.
For much of the day, Mrs. Ryan sat in the front row, bracketed by the oldest and youngest of their offspring--daughter Nancy Coghlan and son George Jr.--the only two of the Ryans' six children permitted in court because the remaining four are expected to be called as witnesses.
Daughter beaded necklace
A few weeks before the six days of jury selection began Sept. 19, Ryan daughter Lynda Fairman gave her mother a handmade silver and glass bead necklace that Mrs. Ryan continues to wear daily to the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.
Ryan's co-defendant, businessman Lawrence Warner, a close friend, has been as expressionless in the courtroom as Ryan, but unlike the former governor, he is chatty during the breaks. Warner is cheery as he makes small talk, telling a courtroom sketch artist that he'd prefer she leave out his double chin. He also had extravagant praise for the folksy opening statement by his lawyer, Terence Gillespie.
Gillespie, one of the city's top criminal defense lawyers, told the jury that Warner's business dealings with the state of Illinois were all legal, "not monkey business," but aggressive business practice and that the only gifts he gave Ryan were not fancy jewelry or cash but tokens of genuine friendship. Referring to one controversial state contract that the government contends bilked taxpayers, Gillespie asserted sarcastically, "Probably if they used cheaper toilet paper in their bathroom they could have charged less to the state of Illinois."
As for the government lawyers and sleuths, said Gillespie, "They probably got a good medical bill for paper cuts," having pored over so many documents trying to find evidence of wrongdoing by Ryan and Warner.
1st good feeling in years
Warner said afterwards, "For the first time in three years, I've had a good feeling. My side was heard. I think Terry Gillespie is just unbelievable!"