CHICAGO (AP) _ A longtime friend of Gov. George Ryan has pleaded innocent to federal racketeering charges stemming from the alleged coverup of a scandal linked to the Illinois secretary of state’s office under Ryan.
Dean Bauer, 71, is the top former official charged thus far in the two-year-old investigation into the selling of truck driver’s licenses and the diversion of some of the tainted cash to Ryan’s campaign fund.
Bauer, inspector general under Secretary Ryan, was charged with blocking investigations into the scheme, concealing evidence and lying to the FBI.
So far, federal prosecutors have charged 29 people and have gotten guilty pleas from 17 of them in connection with the driver’s license program, which was under Ryan’s authority when he was Illinois secretary of state from 1991 until he was elected governor in 1998. Investigators say the licenses-for-sale scheme funneled at least $150,000 to Ryan’s campaign fund.
Ryan has expressed regret that the alleged scheme occurred while he was secretary of state, but says he knew nothing about it at the time. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Bauer appeared at a brief arraignment before U.S. District Judge George W. Lindberg on Wednesday. The judge asked him if he was pleading innocent.
``That is correct, your honor,″ Bauer said.
He declined comment after court.
``We’re going to try this case in court,″ defense attorney Edward Genson said as he and Bauer waded through reporters and camera crews jamming the courthouse lobby. ``That’s where we try the cases.″
Bauer was accused of quietly and methodically shutting down an investigation into a November 1994 accident in Wisconsin in which six children in one family were killed. The driver whose truck caused the accident got his license through a fixed test, witnesses have testified.
Federal prosecutors have said at least 500 unqualified truck drivers went on Illinois highways as a result of tests that were fixed.
Bauer, who previously had been police chief in Ryan’s hometown of Kankakee, is now retired.