Gov. George Ryan hoping to get out of prison


Attorneys for former Illinois Governor George Ryan say his convictions should be vacated, or at the very least, they say Ryan should be given a new trial.

This latest appeal is based on a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this past summer in the case of the former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling.  The high court narrowed the scope of a law commonly called the honest services statute and ruled that prosecutors could use it only in bribery cases.

In a two-hour long hearing monday attorneys for Ryan told a federal judge Rebecca Pallmeyer that that ruling changes everything about Ryan’s case.  They say there weren’t any bribes and Ryan couldn’t be prosecuted under the law today.  They admit Ryan awarded contracts to friends who had done favors for him, and they admit Ryan failed to disclose those favors, but that’s not bribery.  They say that’s simply failing to disclose a conflict of interest.

But prosecutors asked judge Pallmeyer argued that the conflict of interest was based on bribery.  Laurie Barsella said it’s not like Ryan was a part owner in a business that he awarded a contract to.  No, the conflict that he failed to disclose was bribes he had recieved.

Ryan’s attorneys are also asking for the former governor to be freed while his appeal proceeds.  In arguing that part of the case, attorney Andrea Lyon said Ryan’s not a flight risk or a threat to public safety and she said he’s already served 3 years in prison, and if he’s convicted again, he can be sent back.

But Lyon says there’s great harm if Ryan is kept in prison now if his appeal is ultimately going to be successful, something Lyon says is likely.  She pointed to Ryan’s wife in the front row of the courtroom and said she probably has only 6 months, or a year to live.

Outside court, former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson who is heading up Ryan’s defense team, said Ryan has already lost everything and has suffered enough.  “The only thing that George and Lura Lynn Ryan have left in their lives, however short they may be, are their love for each other, and their family and their friends.  Everything else has been taken from them,” said Thompson. 

Prosecutors say it’s very unfortunate that Ryan’s wife is ill but they say all inmates are separated from their loved ones during trying circumstances.  They say Ryan shouldn’t receive special treatment just because he’s a former governor.

Judge Pallmeyer said she’d issue a ruling promptly but didn’t say exactly what that meant.

Originally reported by Chicago Public Radio. Read the original article here.

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