Ryan's last stand

Illinois will continue to have two former governors behind bars for at least another year.

While former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has been doing time, he's been spending part of his time trying to figure out how to do less time.

But it looks like he's played his last card. Ryan, who is 78, will not be getting out early, although he is scheduled to be released from his 6 1/2-year sentence in mid-2013.

A federal appeals court in Chicago on Monday denied Ryan's request that he be released from custody based on his claim that prosecutors didn't prove he accepted bribes while he was governor and secretary of state.

Ryan tried a similar argument without success last year before the same court. But the U.S. Supreme Court gave Ryan brief hope earlier this year when it ordered the appeals court to take a second look at its decision.

The justices did so, but came to the same conclusion that jurors believed prosecutors had proved Ryan did accept bribes while in office.

This wasn't traditional bribery — payment for a specific act — that is so commonplace in government.

What Ryan did — and what the court found to be a violation of law — was engage in granting special favors to special friends who, in turn, granted him special favors.

In Ryan-world, that meant granting contracts and building leases to buddies, who lavished cash and free vacations on Ryan.

It was all wink, wink, nod, nod — nothing so vulgar as an explicit quid pro quo. But the activities of Ryan & Co. showed a clear pattern and practice of payoffs.

The legal wrangling stems from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 striking down "theft of honest services" as part of the federal mail fraud statute because it was too vague. The high court said prosecutors must prove bribery to win a conviction. Unfortunately for Ryan, there was nothing vague about Ryan's misconduct. That's why he'll remain behind bars until he's served his time.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on August 07, 2012 at 5:08 pm

"granting contracts, and building leases to buddies" was what Ryan's precedessors: Thompson, and Edgar, did before Ryan did it.  It is ironic that Winston & Strawn, Thompson's law firm, tried to get poor, old George out early.  Corruption by the legislators, and by the governors existed well before George took office.  However, George was more arrogant about it.  He expected cash for his birthday from state employees.  The coerced donations went to the Friends of George Ryan.  When the investigation started, an e-mail was sent to state employees ordering them to shred any documents with the Friends of George Ryan on them.  When it was announced that Gov. Ryan was visiting an office, most employees with any sense got sick, and used sick leave or vacation time.  He got stuck on an elevator in the Hilton Hotel on his inaugrination night because the elevator was over loaded.  When they finally got him out, he fired the last two employees that had got on the elevator with him.  He was corrupt, and mean.