Former Ryan aide accuses feds of abusing power

September 23, 2009 (CHICAGO) Fawell recently completed a nearly five-year federal prison term for racketeering. He also testified against his boss, former governor George Ryan.

Scott Fawell was a most reluctant witness against his friend and former boss George Ryan, but Fawell did testify after his fiancee was indicted.

In an essay in Tuesday morning's Daily Herald and again with ABC7 in the afternoon, Fawell argues that in the aftermath of Chris Kelly's suicide there ought to be public discussion about the tactics of federal prosecutors and whether their power is used or abused.

"Emotionally, financially, mentally, they break you until you say I surrender," said Fawell.

During and now long after his corruption trial, Scott Fawell has been critical of federal prosecutors saying their power is unlimited and too often abused at the expense of a defendant's legal rights. And he contends prosecutors bear some level of responsibility for the suicide of the twice-indicted long time Blagojevich friend Chris Kelly.

"They ought to step back and say maybe we pushed the envelope too much. Will they do that, I only hope they can," said Fawell.

"The system rewards cooperation. The government pursues cooperation and pursues it aggressively," said Patrick Collins, former assistant U.S. attorney.

Patrick Collins was the lead prosecutor in the Fawell and Ryan cases. He says it's unfair to suggest that government pressure caused a suicide because the facts just aren't known. Collins does acknowledge that prosecutorial abuse of discretion is a topic worthy of discussion, and there is a baseline to that.

"The line should be, does the pressure skew justice, does pressure lead to lying," said Collins.

Collins says there may have been much discomfort in the Fawell case, but not lying, and that Fawell and his fiancee were indicted and convicted of serious crimes.

Fawell says he's not bitter and has chosen to move on with his life, decidedly different than the one he once knew. But he remains passionate on how prosecutors use or abuse their legal muscle.

"I can only hope the public will listen and say don't shout him down and say Fawell is nuts. Maybe they'll listen. Maybe they won't," said Fawell.

Scott Fawell did 52 months in federal prison, six more months in a half-way house, and has since started a small consulting company.

Like Fawell, other defendants in public corruption cases have complained about heavy-handed tactics by prosecutors. George Ryan said the government tore at the very fiber of his life, and Rod Blagojevich has called the US attorney unethical and overzealous. In those claims and Fawell's, the US attorney's office has no comment.

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