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American Dream Betrayed

George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies

On November 22, 2010, I sat in the federal courtroom of Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer and witnessed a dog and pony show. Lawyers representing George Ryan argued their motion to get Ryan released from prison based on the June 2010 Conrad Black case, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal honest services law of which he was convicted is vague and unconstitutional.

In 2006, after almost a six-month long trial and several days of deliberation, a jury unanimously convicted Ryan on all 22 counts of his indictment. Judge Pallmeyer subsequently sentenced Ryan to 6 1/2 years in federal prison. So far, he has served three of those years.

There were two issues in this hearing: Whether to vacate the conviction of mail fraud and whether to release Ryan on bond until and if the federal government decides to retry him on mail fraud. Ryan exhausted all attempts to overturn his conviction for fraud and racketeering when on May 27th, 2008 the United States Supreme Court rejected Ryan's last bid for appeal. These latest motions are simply an attempt to determine if the Conrad Black decision also applies to Ryan's public corruption case.

The three main arguments presented by Ryan's legal team regarding vacating the mail fraud were that the government failed to sufficiently prove that George Ryan ever benefited from gifts or services given to him by his friends who received lucrative government contracts and leases; that the Ryan jury was given bad instructions before they deliberated on the verdict; and that the government insufficiently proved property fraud.

All of that sounds reasonable except that the appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court have already ruled on these issues. And that was exactly the counter-argument made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Barsella. As a matter of fact, she described how Ryan tried to cover his tracks on the gifts he received by fabricating a bogus money trail that was later uncovered by the FBI.

Likewise, Ryan's team failed to mention that Ryan was guilty of covering up various briberies, including the license-for-bribe scandal, when his own investigators from the inspector general's office uncovered an ongoing conspiracy to use bribe money from unqualified truck drivers and filter it to his campaign fund for governor.

At one point, attorney Albert Alschuler compared convicted felon Ryan to Mother Teresa, saying if she were elected governor, she would not have been convicted by a jury if she received gifts from friends. Well, Ryan was once considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, now let's think about canonizing him. After all, he did bring us the digital driver's license. Of course, Viisage, one of the digital vendors, had to pay a kickback.

Eighteen national highway deaths have been tied to the licenses-for-bribes scheme, including those of the six Willis children in an accident in Milwaukee 16 years ago. One convicted driver's license examiner stated she contributed $80,000 in bribes to the Ryan campaign. How does a politician not benefit from bribes in the form of campaign contributions?

Ryan attorney Andrea Lyon argued why he should be released on bond. She stated that Ryan has a compelling case and she believes the ruling on vacating the mail fraud will be in his favor. So why not give him a bond until the decision is rendered. If he loses, he can go back to prison. He is not a flight risk. Nor is he dangerous. Lyon asked the judge to consider the human factor. Lura Lynn, Ryan's wife, is ill and she might die in a year. She has been without him for three years. Lyon asked Pallmeyer, "Why not give them this time together?"

At this point in the show, I wanted to jump up and shout out, "Scott and Janet Willis have been without their six children now for 16 years and they are never coming home!"

AUSA Barsella rebutted with a more professional cool, calm, and collect demeanor. She stated that Ryan should not be given any more special treatment than any other convicted felons who are also separated from their families. Like all families, loved ones become ill or suffer crisis. To give Ryan special consideration impacts the confidence of the citizens.

Pallmeyer concluded the proceeding with reason. She stated she was certain no matter what her decision will be, it will be heard on appeal. She said she will rule as quickly as she can.

Obviously, I am biased. I was one of the investigators whose cases were obstructed by Ryan and his cronies. I have also had the privilege to get to know Scott and Janet Willis. Ryan was not driving the truck that so suddenly and tragically took the lives of their six children; however, his prior and subsequent actions of greed and lies are indicative of his culpability. Three more years remaining on his sentence is humane enough for me.

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Ed Hammer is a retired Illinois Secretary of State Police Captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty: How and Insider Links the Death of Six Children to the Politics of Convicted Governor George Ryan.

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See also:
* George Ryan's Park Bench

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on November 23, 2010


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