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Gay Memo Becomes Issue In Former Gov.'s Trial


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Gay Memo Becomes Issue In Former Gov.'s Trial

by The Associated Press

Posted: November 28, 2005 12:01 am ET

(Chicago, Illinois) It began with an embarrassing blunder.

A memo describing behind-the-scenes efforts to win the gay vote on Chicago's north lakefront for George Ryan in his 1998 race for governor was supposed to be for internal campaign use only.

But through an incredible error, the document arrived via fax in the studios of WILL radio in Champaign. Soon, the surprising details it contained were blaring across the airwaves for all to hear.

"The secretary is very upset about this," Ryan spokesman Dave Urbanek told anyone who called about the memo, which suggested the then-secretary of state's employees were campaigning on state time.

Democrats grumbled that Ryan, a Republican, was illegally using state employees as campaign workers. And before the dust settled, state police were called in to investigate.

Seven years later, the Ryan campaign's low-key, half-hidden efforts to win the gay vote without triggering a conservative backlash are still touching off fireworks -- this time at the former governor's federal racketeering and fraud trial, now heading into its 10th week.

Before the trial recessed for the long weekend Wednesday, Ryan defense attorney Bradley E. Lerman argued the jury should hear the whole story -- including Ryan's record in favor of gay rights when he was governor -- or hear nothing at all about the matter.

But U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer said she didn't want the trial to delve into anyone's record on gay rights.

"I don't want politics in the record unless we can't tell the story without them," she told attorneys as they searched for a way to present touchy evidence without going over the line.

Ryan, 71, and his lobbyist friend, Larry Warner, 67, are charged in a 22-count federal indictment with racketeering, mail fraud and other offenses.

Among other things, Ryan is accused of using state employees to do campaign work while they were being paid by the taxpayers. Prosecutors say the memo about the gay community proves it.

Ryan and Warner say nothing they did was illegal.

Prosecutors say they can whittle away any facts that might potentially prejudice the jury and give jurors a bare-bones account of what they consider the heart of the matter.

They say that after the campaign, Warner tried to slip money quietly to leaders of a group called Progressives in Politics that had been formed to mobilize gay voters for Ryan.

Lerman said whittling away the facts won't be fair to Ryan.

"I don't know they can sanitize this," Lerman told Pallmeyer. He said so much would be missing from testimony that it wouldn't give jurors a realistic picture.

Instead, it would amount to "a fictionalized account," Lerman said.

The memo accidentally faxed to WILL spells out what Ryan's campaign staff had in mind.

It outlined a campaign of guest editorials, ads and letters to the editors of gay newspapers putting the spotlight on Democratic rival Glenn Poshard's record of opposing gay rights bills.

It also said that an employee in the secretary of state's office "has asked permission to establish a committee to give this drive more legitimacy."

Such a committee, the memo said, "will allow us to focus on more than gay issues and also provide some cover from the right wing."

Now on the witness stand is former secretary of state employee Glenn Good, who founded Progressives in Politics, a group that was not overtly gay nor specifically tied to Ryan but that organized support for Ryan in Chicago's "Boys Town" area and nearby neighborhoods.

Prosecutors say Progressives in Politics wound up from $2,000 to $3,000 in debt after the campaign and went to key Ryan aide Rich Juliano asking to be reimbursed for their expenses.

According to prosecutors, Juliano sent them to Warner, saying Ryan's old lobbyist friend would give them their money. They did and Warner offered them a check, prosecutors say.

But Lerman doesn't want jurors to hear that -- especially if they aren't allowed to hear that Ryan was a gay-rights supporter when he was governor.

Lerman said the story makes it look as if Ryan were sneaking away from his association with gay voters.

He said jurors might draw the wrong conclusion if told "there was some reason why Citizens for Ryan couldn't pay Mr. Good's organization but no one can talk about it here in court."

Defense attorneys have another problem with the story as well.

Good and his associates wouldn't take Warner's money. After thinking about it, they tore up the check he gave them, took up a collection among themselves and paid off the debt.

Warner attorney Edward M. Genson said it would be unfair to place suspicions in the minds of jurors by saying that the check was torn up or anyone was afraid to take his client's money.

Pallmeyer said she would reserve any decision on how much to allow.

©365Gay.com 2005


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