CHICAGO – A federal prosecutor asked the judge at former Gov. George Ryan's trial Monday to discourage the defendant from making public statements like one last week in which he criticized a prosecution witness, former Sen. Phil Gramm.
Patrick M. Collins, the lead prosecutor at the racketeering and fraud trial, said the kind of remarks Ryan made Thursday before TV cameras about the former Texas senator could affect future witnesses.
"It could send a message to future witnesses that not only will they be cross-examined in court, which is appropriate, but they and their families will be attacked out of court," Collins said as the trial entered its ninth week.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer said she would consider cautioning the defense.
During Gramm's bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 1996, his campaign paid $11,000 to Ryan. Prosecutors argue that the payment may have figured in Ryan's decision to endorse the Texas Republican, but Ryan says it was a consulting fee.
Ryan was angered last week when a prosecutor asked Gramm why he would never pay for a political endorsement and Gramm replied: "It's sort of like the difference between love and prostitution ... You don't pay people to like you."
Hours later, Ryan stopped in front of cameras outside the courtroom and suggested Gramm and his wife, Wendy, may have been involved in the Enron Corp. financial scandal.
Gramm as a senator and Mrs. Gramm, as a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, took actions that affected the Texas energy-trading company, whose spectacular collapse wiped out the life savings of some of its employees.
Neither Gramm has been charged with wrongdoing in the Enron collapse.
Ryan defense attorney Dan K. Webb told Pallmeyer that Ryan was upset by Gramm's "gratuitous, cutesy, Texas analogy about prostitutes" and took it personally.
Gramm's remark was made while the jury was absent as attorneys questioned him to see what he would say if jurors were present. Pallmeyer made it plain that she didn't want any reference to prostitution in Gramm's testimony when the jury was president.
Webb said Ryan had confined his TV comments to the material that was said outside the presence of the jury, but Collins said it was possible that jurors could have been in the courthouse lobby and heard what he was saying.