Former Ill. Gov. George Ryan Seeks Clemency From Obama

Former Illinois Senator George Ryan, 76, serving a 78 month prison sentence, is seeking clemency (not a pardon) from President Barack Obama.

Lura Lynn Ryan, who has a terminal lung disease, said she is on oxygen 24 hours a day. Ryan, in federal prison in Indiana for more than two years, also has health problems, including kidney disease and infected teeth, said former Gov. Jim Thompson, who is representing Ryan.

..."There's nothing to be gained by keeping him another five years," Thompson said today. "He's already been punished, they are penniless and Mrs. Ryan has a very life-threatening illness. We're not asking for a pardon, just a release."


Ryan also has Crohn's disease and diabetes. The BOP must be paying a small fortune for his medical care. Long term incarceration of non-violent elderly offenders is just another example of our needless over-reliance on incarceration. Alternative sentences are available that would be a much better fit.

As Governor, Ryan emptied Illinois' death row in 2003 due to the large number of wrongful convictions by commuting the sentences of all 167 inmates to life in prison. As I said then:

"Saving the life of an innocent man is far more profound an act of justice than any act of bribery or political misconduct in office can be considered an act of injustice."

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    It seems just to me (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by KeysDan on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 07:05:05 PM EST
    for the granting of clemency to George Ryan.  The Ricardo Guzman trucker case resulted in the tragic loss of six children through the indirect licensing corruption while Ryan was still  Illinois Secretary of State, and for this, primary, he rightly deserved his fall from office and jail time.   However, at this point, there is little more to gain by keeping him in prison.  Ryan, as governor, not only courageously placed a moratorium on the death penalty, but also was responsible for many other  un-Republican initiatives for the public good, including a massive ($17 billion) initiative to rebuild schools and roads, including a long time expressway bottleneck--a source of motorist irritation for decades.  He traveled to Cuba in an attempt to improve trade relations and for an old-fashioned Republican he was an advocate for human rights.   None of this is intended as an excuse for his corruption and its tragic aftermath, but in consideration of time spent, health circumstances, advancing age and a dollop or two of forgiveness.

    Obama has been very slow (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Peter G on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 09:45:34 PM EST
    to begin using his exclusive power, conferred under the Constitution, to grant clemency.  Ryan is probably deserving, but so are hundreds if not thousands of nonviolent drug offenders serving ridiculously excessive sentences imposed under federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums.  And many white collar offenders, too, and a lot of child p*rn "downloader/lookers."  The President could request the Office of Pardon Attorney in the DOJ to send him 500 files to grant clemency to, along with Ryan.  I could name half a dozen of my own clients very easily that are equally good candidates -- several of them as old or older, with sick family members or sick themselves, who have served longer and still have longer to serve.

    Was his epiphany politically motivated? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Babel 17 on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 07:34:50 PM EST

    "Ryan's political career was marred by a scandal involving the illegal sale of government licenses, contracts and leases by state employees during his prior service as Secretary of State; in the wake of numerous convictions of former aides, he chose not to run for reelection in 2002. The scandals are widely believed to have hurt Republicans' chances for re-winning Illinois' governorship state Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan  lost to U.S. Representative Rod Blagojevich in the 2002 election, ending 25 years of Republican governorships. All told, seventy-nine former state officials, lobbyists, and others have been since charged in the investigation, and at least 76 have been convicted.

    The corruption scandal that led to Ryan's downfall began over a decade earlier as a federal investigation into a deadly crash in Wisconsin that killed six children of Rev. Duane "Scott" Willis and his wife, Janet . The investigation revealed a scheme inside Ryan's secretary of state's office in which unqualified truck drivers obtained licenses through bribes. As the AP wrote: "The probe expanded over the next eight years into a wide-ranging corruption investigation that eventually reached Ryan in the governor's office."

    In March 2003, Scott Fawell, Ryan's former chief of staff and campaign manager, was convicted along with Ryan's campaign fund on federal charges of racketeering and fraud. Former deputy campaign manager Richard Juliano pled guilty to related charges and testified against Fawell at trial. The investigation finally reached the former governor, and in December 2003, Ryan and lobbyist Lawrence Warner were named in a 22-count federal indictment. The charges included racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering and tax fraud. The indictment alleged that Ryan steered several state contracts to Warner and other friends; disbursed campaign funds to relatives and to pay personal expenses; and obstructed justice by attempting to end the state investigation of the license-for-bribes scandal. He was charged with lying to investigators and accepting cash, gifts and loans in return for his official actions as governor. In late 2005, the case went to trial."

    After reading the rest I have to wonder how one can reduce the sentence.

    But I agree with you that the class of elderly non-violent offenders are something of a special case. Though I'm often amazed at how quickly those who are powerful and up there in years go from projecting themselves as being vibrant to projecting themselves as being debilitated. It seems the attachment of handcuffs is the catalyst.

    Imo if clemency is given it should include some very strict restrictions on his behavior.

    I suspect that he would be in a position to shake down, or play on the sympathies of, former associates. That must not be allowed.

    He abused his former position and mustn't be allowed to reap any benefit from having held it.

    It's won't be as if he served his time.

    It's time (none / 0) (#3)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 08:20:54 PM EST
    As states are all going broke, maybe it's time to give serious thought to our prison system. What does it cost to house a prisoner? How many are threats to society? Can community service or some other form of punishment be worked out? Ryan's actions were a matter of poor judgement and not malicious. At his age what can be accomplished by keeping him in prison?