Tuesday, February 10, 2009

George Ryan's ups and downs for freedom

The road to justice has been a long and winding one – both for convicted Ex-Governor George Ryan and the people of Illinois whom he defrauded.

A serious blow came to Ryan when President George W. Bush exited the White House without granting clemency for Ryan, the man who chaired Bush's Illinois campaign for President in 2000. This was despite a plea to the Ex-President from Ryan's wife Lura Lynn. Even Illinois' senior senator, Dick Durbin and an-other beleaguered Ex-Governor, Rod Blagojevich, asked for Ryan's release from prison, sug-gesting that his sentence be satis-fied by time served.

Ryan has served one year of his six- and one-half-year sen-tence after being convicted for a litany of corruption charges.

But, expect a new string of support letters to once again head toward 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Ryan's behalf. Jim Thompson, another Ex-Governor who is also the high-powered attorney who fought to keep Ryan out of jail for as long as possible, says he will ask Presi-dent Barack Obama for clem-ency for his client.

Thompson told WBEZ radio recently that President Obama has known Ryan since the two worked together in Springfield for a time. Thompson is prepar-ing a new application using the argument that Ryan's continued imprisonment doesn't appear to have deterred other politicians from corrupt activities.

RYAN'S PENSION

In conjunction with Ryan's 2006 conviction, he was stripped of his pension. It amounted to about $197,000 annually.

But the appellate court over-turned the circuit court, ruling earlier this month stating that Ryan could retain the pension he earned from public service prior to his terms as Secretary of State and Governor.

Ryan had also served in the state legislature and as lieutenant governor. According to the high court, he is entitled to keep about $65,000 annually.

But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who was the first to argue that Ryan should not receive any of his pension, plans to appeal the decision.

At the time of his conviction, she issued a detailed opinion that the convicted felon should be stripped of his pension benefits.

Cook County Circuit Judge Martin Agran agreed with her. He upheld the unanimous ruling of the General Assembly Re-tirement System board that voted to deny Ryan his annual pension.

Madigan said at the time that Ryan forfeited all of his pension benefits, not merely those that accrued during the eight years that he served as Governor and Secretary of State. She also re-quested that he receive a timely and full refund of the contribu-tions he made to the system.

NOBEL PRIZE NOMINEE

There is at least one advocate of Ryan's deeds who has been consistent in his support. Uni-versity of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle, who has long ad-vocated abolishing the death penalty, has placed Ryan's name in nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for the seventh time.

Boyle says his continuing nomination encourages aware-ness of the issue of capital pun-ishment. Boyle said 37 execu-tions occurred in 2008, a down-ward trend that began with Ryan's death penalty morato-rium.

Ryan did away with Illinois' death row in 2003 before leaving office.
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