CHICAGO -- The political strategist who helped engineer former governor George Ryan's rise to power took the witness stand yesterday, and in testimony laced with wisecracks began telling a jury how Ryan doled out state contracts, leases, and favors to the well connected.
Scott Fawell waved to spectators and grinned broadly as he took his seat. He nodded to Ryan, saluted a newspaper reporter, and made no effort to disguise his disdain for the prosecutors who put him in federal prison for graft.
Asked by prosecutor Patrick M. Collins why he agreed to testify against his former boss, the 48-year-old Fawell cited his love for his fiancee and added, ''And you guys got my head in a vise."
Ryan, 71, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, fraud, and other offenses. Prosecutors say he doled out contracts and business to political insiders in exchange for cash, free vacations, and other favors while he was Illinois secretary of state in the 1990s. He is on trial along with his lobbyist friend Larry Warner.
Fawell was Ryan's chief of staff in the secretary of state's office and masterminded Ryan's campaign for governor in 1998.
Fawell, who is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in federal prison for racketeering and fraud, said he considers Ryan and Warner his friends and is testifying against them only because he is facing additional time behind bars for bid-rigging and hopes to get lenient treatment for himself and his fiancee, who has also pleaded guilty.
Fawell said he compiled a master list while working in the secretary of state's office that showed how Ryan doled out jobs, special license plates, contracts, and other favors. He said he made the list because he believed it would become politically useful.
Ryan, who was governor from 1999 to 2003, won widespread attention by clearing out Illinois's death row and commuting the sentences of 167 inmates just before he left office.