Acquitted ex-official looks to future

December 19, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Teddy C. Ryan Jr. -- briefly a top city official in Cumberland earlier this year -- is today a man without a job, without a house and without money.

Even so, Mr. Ryan, who was acquitted two weeks ago of charges related to the kidnapping and $100,000 robbery of a Florida coin and pawnshop owner, is content to attend to personal needs, spend time with his family and breathe the exhilarating air of freedom.

"I don't have any plans now except to enjoy my family for the holiday season and to enjoy the Lord's birthday," said the man who served only a week as Cumberland's city administrator, after beating out 98 applicants for the job.

As that first week on his new, $50,000-a-year job was ending in March, Mr. Ryan was arrested on 12 felony counts, transported to Florida and jailed to await trial because he couldn't afford what initially was $1 million in bail.

Now, he says, he is considering writing a book about the nine months he spent in jail and his three-week trial.

"I could write two books," he said in an interview from West Palm Beach, Fla. "I could write an actual account of what happened because people are curious about that. In all fairness, the facts and scenarios are quite interesting. . . I could come up with a

fictional book that would be a blockbuster."

Mr. Ryan's story is bizarre.

A city manager with 25 years' experience, mostly in small towns such as Clovis, N. M., Trinidad, Colo., Ocoee, Fla., and most recently, Stoneham, Mass., Mr. Ryan and his younger brother, Robert, were accused of holding a coin and pawn shop owner and four other people hostage Jan. 22 in a Port Charlotte, Fla., house, taping explosives to the shop owner's chest and extorting more than $100,000 from him.

"Can you imagine going to work one day as a city administrator and the police show up, handcuff you, search your home and take you to jail?" asked Richard Lee Barrett, Mr. Ryan's attorney.

On the surface, the case against Mr. Ryan looked like a sure thing. Witnesses identified him as one of the perpetrators, who were unmasked during the robbery and claimed they were brothers.

But once the case went to trial, the defense produced witnesses who placed Mr. Ryan 175 miles away when the crime occurred. Witnesses' descriptions were weakened by discrepancies as well. And police and prosecutors could produce no physical evidence against Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Barrett attributed the verdict to a shoddy investigation and Mr. Ryan's testimony during the trial.

"The story was so bizarre that it didn't make sense that a man like Teddy would commit a crime as stupid as this," Mr. Barrett said.

Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Harrington agreed that the lack of physical evidence and the head police investigator's inexperience played a role in the acquittal.

"'Reasonable doubt' is tough" to overcome, she said of the requirement that jurors be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the guilt of the defendant.

"Teddy Ryan is an intelligent man," Ms. Harrington said. "He is not going to do something stupid." She contends the state has a stronger case against his brother, whose trial begins next month.

Mr. Ryan said he will testify on his brother's behalf. He believes the state has no case against him either.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ryan is trying to piece his life back together with his wife and three grown children.

"I'm looking at getting things organized, dusting off my resume," he said. "I have no job leads at this time. I have been in contact with prison ministries. That's something I feel very strongly about."

Always a spiritual man, Mr. Ryan, 49, said he turned to God during his nine months in jail in Florida. He passed time reading Scripture.

He spent 270 days in jail. He sold his home and possessions to pay his legal fees of more than $100,000.

"I lost everything of value -- of world value. But I gained everything of value -- of spiritual value. I have a clear, intimate relationship with my creator," he said.

Mr. Ryan said he holds no grudges against Cumberland officials, who terminated his contract and have since hired a successor.

"There may have been a better way to handle the circumstance," Mr. Ryan said. "But those people were decent, forthright and supportive. It was an ordeal for both of us."

He is not forgiving of the justice system, however.

"This case would have never gone to trial in Baltimore or Los Angeles," Mr. Ryan said. "It went through the process, and there was no case. I find it reprehensible."

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