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George Ryan's Park Bench

A park bench dedicated to a convicted felon sits just outside Kankakee County's courthouse where justice is sought against the felonious. Those tried and convicted in the Kankakee court are usually the typical criminals we see on the crime dramas on television, like murderers, rapists, burglars and car thieves. The park bench is in honor of another type of felon common to Illinois, a corrupt politician. The bench is dedicated to former Governor George Ryan who is now serving time in a federal prison after being convicted on a 22-count indictment.

KanKaKee park bench 1.JPG

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The bench is framed by young boy reaching out to a young girl with a bouquet of flowers.

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Kankakee park bench 2.JPG

According to a 2003 article in the Kankakee Journal, a private group raised $20,000 for the sculpture to honor the former governor.

Ryan was convicted in 2006 of crimes in part of a license for bribe scandal connected to several national highway deaths. One of the fatal accidents linked to that scandal was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and resulted in six children burning to death in their family van. Investigators discovered that bribe money taken by license examiners was going to Ryan's campaign funds. The examiner who issued the license to the truck driver who caused the Milwaukee crash admitted to federal agents that she received eighty thousand dollars in bribes that went to Ryan's campaign. Ryan conspired with his chief of staff and inspector general to cover up the bribe scheme.

On Nov.1, 2010, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, the judge who sentenced Ryan, will be hearing arguments on a motion by Ryan's attorneys to reduce his six-and-a-half year sentence. He has served less than half thus far. The motion filed by Jim Thompson, another former governor, and Dan Webb, a former federal prosecutor, is asking to reconsider the sentence based a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the "honest services" law deemed unconstitutional.

The honest services clause refers to a section of the federal mail and wire fraud statute which includes the phrasing, "a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that section as unconstitutional as it applies to the private sector cases of Sun-Times magnate Conrad Black and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. In public corruption cases, honest services fraud may be more easily proven because the officials' unethical conduct is a violation of their oath and other state statutes. Ryan was convicted of racketeering, tax fraud, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal agents. The obstruction charges are linked to Ryan's attempt to cover up investigations of the license- for-bribe scheme by agents in Ryan's own Department of Inspector General.

The Kankakee park bench is dedicated to George Ryan for his years in public service which began in Kankakee. According to a July 2010 column in the Chicago Daily Observer by political biographer Jim Ridings, Ryan's first political scandal was in 1973 when he attempted to bribe a candidate not to run for Kankakee sheriff against Ryan's choice.

The list continues from there, including fixing cases, abuse of time, ghost payrolling, defaulting on county loans, prohibited state contracts, getting charges dropped on a nursing home accused of patient neglect and abuse, misuse of state airplanes, laundering money, bid-rigging, attempting to hire a convicted drug felon for DCFS, and soliciting campaign contributions from state-licensed automobile dealers.

If the park bench dedicated to Ryan's public service includes this litany of allegations that culminated in a conviction for covering up an investigation that is linked to the death of innocent children, then Illinois voters can only pray that Pallmeyer determines the Supreme Court's honest services decision does not apply to Ryan's conviction and he serves out his complete sentence in a dedicated prison cell.

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Ed Hammer is a retired Illinois Secretary of State Police captain and author of 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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Comments welcome.



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Posted on October 13, 2010


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