Thursday, January 31, 2013

George Ryan finally gets Illinois' get out of jail free card

Disgraced, convicted felon
ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan
It has taken six years for former Illinois Governor/attorney Jim Thompson to get his client, the disgraced ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, out of a federal penitentiary. This week he finally pulled it off. Ryan had about nine months left to serve on his 6 1/2-year prison sentence, but is now home again.

Ryan was not just Thompson's client and member of the Illinois governors club; Ryan was Thompson's Lt. Governor from 1983 to 1991.

Thompson represented Ryan pro-bono; he was first hired in 2002 during the 'license for bribes' scandal that ultimately resulted in Ryan's conviction of multiple counts  of racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violations.

In the case against Ryan, Thompson's defense included every trick in the book. From hardship to appeal at every level, to requesting clemency of two U.S. Presidents, Thompson tried to get Ryan to remain a free man. He cited Ryan's health, claiming he could die in prison. Ryan did go home briefly to be with his late wife Laura Lynn, who died of lung cancer in June 2011.

Who knew halfway houses were equipped with revolving doors?

Today Ryan is practically a free man. He was released Wednesday, Jan. 30 from the federal penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana where he has lived since Nov. 7, 2007.

He was enroute to a halfway house in Chicago where he was scheduled to serve the remainder of his prison sentence. But just hours after arriving, he was on his way home to Kankakee. Ryan will remain confined in his spacious riverfront home until his sentence officially concludes.

Thompson told reporters he was surprised by the decision to allow Ryan home confinement, claiming that Ryan received no preferential treatment despite Thompson's own extraordinary measures to see his client and friend free from incarceration. Thompson claimed he did not arrange for his client's release, but that prison officials made the decision.

I wonder who will release those still suffering from Ryan's decisions. Two instances come to mind.

One is a family--the Willis family--whose six children were killed in a horrific traffic accident; killed by a man who obtained an illegal drivers' license when George Ryan served as Illinois Secretary of State.

The other is a group of residents in eastern Will County that still face a threat of eminent domain proceedings to make way for the Peotone airport that will probably never be built. It was George Ryan, the ex-governor who opened that Pandora's box when he ordered the first parcel of land to be bought for the project, even though it wasn't even in the airport site. It was close enough to begin panic selling that began in 2002 and continues to this day.


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