Racketeering and Fraud Trial Begins for Illinois Ex-Governor

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So went the opening day of jury selection in the criminal corruption trial of George Ryan, the former governor of Illinois who became an international star for his challenge of capital punishment even as scandal eroded his popularity at home to cause him to leave office after a single term.

Mr. Ryan, 71, faces 22 counts of racketeering, mail and tax fraud and lying to federal agents. The charges could add up to 95 years in prison for a man whose legacy as he left office in 2003 was clearing Death Row with a blanket commutation for 160 condemned inmates. Federal prosecutors contend that Mr. Ryan and his relatives received cash, luxury vacations and other gifts worth at least $167,000 in exchange for state contracts and political favors in the dozen years in which he was governor or secretary of state.

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