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George Ryan's Day Of Independence

For one Illinois politician, this July 4th Independence Day means more than simply celebrating the birth of our great nation. It means personal independence for him. July 4, 2013, is the last day that convicted former governor George Ryan is supervised by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

On April 17, 2006, a federal jury convicted George Ryan of 18 counts of felony corruption, the most serious but least discussed being obstruction of justice. Ryan, along with Dean Bauer, his inspector general, and Scott Fawell, his chief of staff, conspired to cover up investigations by his special agents responsible for investigating corruption in the Secretary of State's office.

The allegations they were looking into were that commercial driver's licenses were being issued in exchange for bribes. One of those investigations involved an illegal immigrant named Ricardo Guzman driving a truck near Milwaukee on November 8th, 1994, that caused a fatal accident involving six innocent children.

The Secretary of State driver's license examiner who issued the CDL to Guzman admitted to federal authorities that she contributed $80,000 in bribes to the Citizens for Ryan campaign fund. It is estimated that there were at least 12 highway fatalities linked to the licenses-for-bribes scandal.

On November 7, 2007, Ryan began serving his federal sentence, almost exactly 13 years to the day the six children died in the traffic accident. On January 9, 2013, he was released from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Upon his release, Ryan was supposed to live in a halfway house in Chicago, but with the assistance of his longtime friend and attorney, former governor Jim Thompson, Ryan spent less than two hours at the house. Undetected by a mob of reporters and TV cameras parked in front of the halfway house, Ryan slipped out and made his way to his cozy residence in Kankakee.

He has quietly served out the remainder of his sentence at home, with only one reported public sighting where he was photographed dining in Frankfort. Although unclear what exactly the Bureau of Prisons' limitations were placed on Ryan during his home confinement, it is believed he was allowed to leave his home for short periods in order to go to church and for other personal visits.

There is no doubt that Ryan has served out the legal requirements of his punishment. He is old and suffers from Crohn's disease and diabetes. He lost his wife and brother while doing time in Terre Haute. There is no need to drag him down further. He is reportedly working on a tell-all memoir. If he is forthcoming, then he is doing the people of Illinois a service. I guess better late than never. If he is critical of those who deservedly put him away, then he is merely whining as he has often done in the past.

Systemic corruption in Ryan's era of absolute power was not new to Illinois and certainly continues today. One of the reasons one man was able to lead a corrupt organization for 13 years and more without detection can be summed up in one word: Complacency.

Those who surrounded Ryan were more interested in their personal agenda and chose to ignore their boss's crimes. Some state workers comfortable in their jobs chose to remain silent rather than rock the boat. Voters hardened by politics as usual scratched their heads and voted for the presumed lesser of two evils. The consequence of complacency was death.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying "with freedom comes responsibility." In Illinois, we both joke and complain about the corruption in our government. If we truly want celebrate freedom this Independence Day, we must begin to take responsibility to free ourselves from politics as usual.

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Ed Hammer is a retired police captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty and numerous columns on politics and corruption. He can be reached through his website.

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Previously by Ed Hammer:
* George Ryan's Park Bench
* George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies
* George Ryan's Other Jailhouse Interview
* Bugging The Chicago School Board
* Cop vs. Teacher
* Signs of Change
* Pols vs. Teachers
* The Terre Haute Redemption
* Rahm's War On Teachers
* About Those Indicted Nurses
* Body Language Bingo: A Guide To Watching The Presidential Debates

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See also: Honoring A True Illinois Hero.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on July 3, 2013


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