Possible felony record of juror at Ryan trial under investigation
March 24, 2006 -- A federal judge said Friday that she hopes to complete the investigation of one of the jurors at former Gov. George Ryan's racketeering and fraud trial by late Monday morning and have the jury deliberating again before noon.
Later Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that its investigation into jurors' backgrounds suggests a second juror may have an arrest history not disclosed during jury selection.
After finding a male juror may have hidden a felony drunken driving conviction from the court, the newspaper continued its search of public records on Friday and found the name of a female juror linked to an alias.
Records show a woman with that alias faced felony drug charges, and misdemeanor child neglect and assault charges, but was not convicted, the newspaper reported. The juror linked to that alias said she had never been charged or accused with a crime on a jury questionnaire.
Authorities are investigating whether the first juror lied about having a felony drunken driving conviction, a government official close to the investigation confirmed Friday.
That juror's name matched that of a motorist convicted repeatedly on drunken driving charges while driving without a valid license, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details of the investigation are confidential.
Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer ordered the investigation on Thursday, met with the lawyers for two hours on Friday and emerged saying she hoped deliberations would resume by 11 a.m. Monday.
"That ought to give us time to complete our investigation," Pallmeyer said.
Pallmeyer didn't say what had been done in the investigation or what remained to be done. Options included replacing the juror with an alternate, continuing with 11 jurors provided attorneys agreed or deciding no action was necessary and going ahead without further action.
Lawyers who attended Friday's meeting in chambers declined to say what might have been decided but did indicate that they didn't expect to be in the courthouse over the weekend.
The situation was initially uncovered by Tribune reporters investigating jurors' backgrounds. The newspaper brought it to the attention of court officials Thursday.
The juror was asked on the questionnaire all prospective jurors filled out whether he or a relative had ever been charged with a crime and if he had had any particularly good or bad experiences with the secretary of state's office, which issues driver's licenses.
He answered no to both questions.
Ryan was secretary of state at the time of several of the arrests, and state records show that the motorist's driving privileges had been suspended repeatedly, officials said.
Ryan, 72, and businessman Larry Warner, 67, are charged with racketeering, mail fraud and other crimes. Prosecutors say Ryan steered state leases and contracts to favored insiders and was in turn rewarded with free vacations and gifts. Both men say nothing they did was illegal.
The trial, which caps the biggest political scandal in Illinois in decades, is in its sixth month and jurors have been trying to reach a verdict for the past two weeks.
A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, Penelope Campbell, said the motorist's license had been issued in January 1979 and expired in July 1982 and that he had not had a valid driver's license since. She said his driving privileges -- different from a license -- were revoked in October 1985 because of a drunken driving conviction.
He was arrested again for drunken driving in May 1993, refused a breath-alcohol test and his driving privileges were suspended for three years. He was arrested on the same charge again in November 1994, again refused a breath-alcohol test, and his privileges were revoked until 2007.
The juror has not been contacted by reporters and The Associated Press is not naming him because he remains on the jury and it is still deliberating.
Facts were scarce because Pallmeyer has imposed a gag order.
In a front-page story Friday, the Tribune described how its reporters uncovered the situation while investigating the backgrounds of Ryan's jurors. The paper also reported that the motorist had later been charged with unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon but the charges were reduced.
On learning of the juror's possible record, Pallmeyer immediately sent the jury home with instructions to return Monday for a ninth day of deliberations.
Questions concerning the juror arose as the Ryan jury apparently was dealing with friction among its members that caused difficulty in deliberating.
Pallmeyer told reporters Thursday afternoon that the purpose of sending the jurors home early was "to perform a brief investigation" of a matter she said was not related to the problems already besetting the jury.
"This relates to another matter," Pallmeyer said. "It does involve a juror. It does involve a personal matter regarding that juror."
While she sealed the information, she said that she did not "expect that it will remain under seal for a long time."
"In fact, I don't think that this issue will need to await the verdict," Pallmeyer said. "I do think that I will have something more for you on this matter no later than Monday morning."
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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