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George Ryan’s Get-Out-Of-Jail Card

Jim Ridings 12 January 2011 2 Comments

George Ryan’s lawyers have tried numerous times in the last three years to spring the former governor from a federal penitentiary. Every time, their plea is different — it is the governor’s health, the governor’s age, his wife’s health, or just plain mercy because he has been punished enough.

None of these pleas have worked.

It may be because none of these pleas have been grounded in a solid legal defense, a plea that is based on law and not on emotion.

Ryan has succeeded in one thing — eliciting pity from editors and commentators (but not the public) in calling for his release. Unfortunately, editors do not hold the key to the jailhouse.

One might think that Ryan’s case would have had a better outcome, seeing how he has one of Chicago’s top law firms, Winston & Strawn, headed by former Gov. Jim Thompson. These legal services, estimated at being worth $20 million since Ryan’s indictment, delayed Ryan’s incarceration by more than a year, but it did not prevent the convictions nor did it succeed in releasing Ryan from prison.

Ryan’s post-conviction legal defense has been based on a highly choreographed appeal to the emotions. At one court hearing, his wife has 3 years to live. A few months later, she has one year to live. At another hearing a month later, she has 3 months to live.

There isn’t a single person who doesn’t have sympathy for Mrs. Ryan. But the jails are full of people who have dying spouses or other family members. A Ryan tactic is to brand his critics as “bitter” and “haters” who have no compassion, when in reality, most are simply outraged at an effort to spring a big shot politician from his relatively light sentence. Only a big shot would be getting the public attention and the legal maneuvering that an ordinary citizen would not have.

That is where the public outrage comes from — not from bitterness or hatred.
Ryan needs to try a new tactic, perhaps one that a judge can view as being based on the law.

Even mercy is based in law. But Ryan’s lawyers have been going about it all wrong.

So here is an open letter to Jim Thompson.

Mr. Thompson, two factors that a judge might take into account in considering mercy are admission of guilt and remorse. George Ryan has shown neither. He still thinks he did nothing wrong. So why not bring George into court at the next hearing and have him give the following speech.

“Your honor, I am sorry. I admit to all the felonies of which I have been convicted — but nothing more.

“I am sorry I had my employees spend their time raising campaign money for me instead of doing the jobs the taxpayers were paying them to do. I am sorry for all the accidents caused by unqualified drivers who bought licenses. I am sorry for that accident that killed those six kids — but I wasn’t driving that truck, so I bear no direct guilt for that. None!

“I am sorry I gave multi-million dollar contracts to connected pals. I am sorry that I spent Illinois into near bankruptcy with billion dollar pork projects. I am sorry that I put so many family and friends on the state payroll. I am sorry for taking gifts and family vacations in exchange for government contracts.

“I am sorry for ripping into Rev. Willis and his lawyer while embracing Fidel Castro.

“I am sorry I lied on my tax returns about all the added money and benefits I received. I am sorry I lied to the FBI  about all of this.

“And I am sorry I used the power of the governor’s office to try to kill the investigation into these acts.

“I also am sorry that I took so long to admit to the guilt that I still do not really see. And I am sorry that I have used my  wife’s delicate health so shamelessly as an object of pity to get out of prison. She was not part of the licenses for bribes or countless other schemes that marked my 40 years in public life.

“Most of all, I am sorry that I got caught. With your mercy, your honor, I pray that this incarceration can end. After all, spending three years in prison for these few errors in judgement is more than anyone should serve.”

It’s not a perfect plea, but it may be all that George Ryan can admit, and it might be enough for a judge to show pity on this unusual individual.


Jim Ridings is a regular contributor to the Chicago Daily Observer and is the author of 18 books, including “Len Small: Governors and Gangsters,” and the new “Chicago To Springfield: Crime and Politics in the 1920s,” both available on Amazon.com


  • Anonymous said:

    You begin to wonder when the Federal Court Judges are not going to enter an order barring Ryan’s lawyers from making additional court filings without first obtaining permission from the presiding judge in advance.

  • shipping to australia soon said:

    Some more corruption. The conspiracy theorists just love this stuff. I think its a little tamer in Australia with this sort of thing. Once punished he should stay away for the time outlined. They are not above the law!

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