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.