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The [George Ryan] Papers

A roundup.

* * *

The Better Government Association's chief investigator, Dan Sprehe, released this statement on Tuesday following the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision upholding former Gov. George Ryan's conviction on a variety of political corruption charges:

"Will You Take Responsiblity Now, Mr. Ryan?

"Twenty-five years ago, the Better Government Association (BGA) and Chicago Sun-Times found a Kankakee pharmacy, owned by then-Illinois House Speaker George Ryan, mysteriously regained $60,000 of annual business from a troubled nursing home. This was following Ryan�s successful efforts to block an investigation into that facility, which contained serious safety and health violations. Ryan called the facts and inherent implications revealed by the BGA and Sun-Times outright and damnable lies.

"Similar responses followed the work of the BGA and NBC Unit-5 during the early 1990s, when inspectors from Secretary of State Ryan's office were filmed raising political cash on state time. This was in addition to numerous statements from SOS employees, who were pressured to sell tickets for Ryan�s political fundraisers, and auto-shop owners who were pressured to buy them from the state inspectors that could easily close their businesses. Ryan and his allies dismissed the evidence as a political attack, using terms like "sham" and "mockery" to describe the BGA's investigation.

"Even in April 2006, George Ryan, who had once vowed to accept responsibility if a jury found him guilty of corruption charges, began immediately attacking the jury that had, moments earlier, done just that. In an argument suited more for a man pleading for his proverbial entrance to heaven, Ryan said the verdict was not "in accordance with the kind of public service that I provided to the people of Illinois for over 40 years."

"The BGA believes the verdict was exactly in accordance with a series of actions George Ryan took while in public office. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed today.

"So now, we must wonder, will today be the day George Ryan accepts responsibility for abusing his office? On this day, will he take the blame for his employees selling Commercial Drivers Licenses to help fund his political career? The answer is predictable. We will just wait and see whom this convicted felon will blame for his downfall this time."

* * *

From the decision (pdf):

"This appeal comes to us after an investigation that lasted for years and a jury trial that lasted more than six months. In the end, the two defendants, former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, Sr., and his associate Lawrence E. Warner, were convicted on various criminal charges. The case attracted a great deal of public attention, and thus the district court handling the trial had to handle a number of problems, some of which were common and others less so. The fact that the trial may not have been picture-perfect is, in itself, nothing unusual. The Supreme Court has observed more than once that "taking into account the reality of the human fallibility of the participants, there can be no such thing as an error-free, perfect trial, and . . . the Constitution does not guarantee such a trial.

"It is our job, in this as in any other criminal appeal, to decide whether any of the court's rulings so impaired the fairness and reliability of the proceeding that the only permissible remedy is a new trial. Defendants Warner and Ryan raise eight grounds on appeal, six of them common and one argument unique to each. Their primary emphasis is on specific issues about the jury. They contend that the verdict was tainted by jurors' use of extraneous legal materials. They characterize the dismissal of a juror as an 'arbitrary removal of a defense holdout.' They object to the substitution of jurors after deliberations had begun. They also raise claims unrelated to the jury, including the arguments that the exclusion of certain evidence was an "erroneous exclusion of exculpatory evidence, that the prosecution failed to identify an 'enterprise' for purposes of its charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1962, and that the mail fraud charges were grounded in an 'unconstitutionally vague criminal statute.' Warner additionally objects to the joinder of his trial with Ryan's, and Ryan argues that certain grand jury testimony violated his attorney-client privilege.

"Some potential issues, we note, are not before us. The defendants do not argue that the problems with the jury had a cumulative, prejudicial effect, even though they made this argument in their motion for a new trial before the district court. Nor do they claim that the evidence was insufficient to support any of the charges on which they were convicted. Rather, their appeal is focused on particular alleged procedural and legal errors. As we would in any case, we review only those issues presented to this court. We conclude that the district court handled most problems that arose in an acceptable manner, and that whatever error remained was harmless. We therefore affirm the convictions."

* * *

George Ryan already has an inmate number: 16627-424

* * *

Nelson Muntz reacts.

* * *

Also from the opinion:

"The evidence supporting the jury's verdict was overwhelming."

Funny, a lot of commentators didn't see it that way at the time.

*

Maybe this is why:

"The legal issues raised by [the decision to replace two jurors eight days into their deliberations] went beyond the reach of news media types such as me who try to apply a commonsense test to such matters," Mark Brown writes today. "At least, I'll admit they were beyond my reach as a non-lawyer."

If the issues were beyond your reach, you have no business being a journalist. It is your job not only to educate yourself and understand the issues, but explain them to the public.

What Brown can't do for you.

* * *

From juror Evelyn Ezell, who was kicked off the panel:

"The bottom line was that George was railroaded for pardoning blacks and other minorities."

A statement that only reinforces the notion that Ezell had no business on that jury.

(From the dissent: "We cannot find any basis in the record to conclude that the district court dismissed Ezell because of her view of the evidence or that the prosecution tricked the district court into dismissing Ezell for cause based on its belief about Ezell's view of the evidence. We have no doubt that the district court's reason for dismissing Ezell were genuine.")

* * *

"If former Gov. George Ryan ends up in the federal prison in Oxford, Wis. - his first choice - he'll likely spend eight hours a day working at a menial job such as cleaning showers or raking leaves," the Sun-Times reports.

Not making license plates?

* * *

The Saga Of The Driver's License Scandal As Told By George Ryan's Vanity Plates*:

1997, Ryan is secretary of state: PAS4CASH
1998, Ryan runs for governor: CNOEVL
1999, Ryan is governor: 2DUM2NO
2002: Ryan contemplates re-election: 4GIVME

* "Big Onion Awards,Chicago magazine, Feb. 20, 2000" (by me)

Of course, Ryan has never asked for forgiveness. Instead, he told Rev. Duane Willis to "get a life."

* * *

From the dissent:

"I have no doubt that if this case had been a six-day trial, rather than a six-month trial, a mistrial would have been swiftly declared."

This is not without merit.

* * *

"Irony should be a four-letter word when applied to political corruption in Illinois," Carol Marin writes. "After all, not only are the attorneys of [former Gov. Jim Thompson's] Winston & Strawn still defending Ryan, they're also representing the current governor, Rod Blagojevich, whose campaign fund has paid out more than $1.1 million in legal fees to the firm since a federal investigation of contracts and hiring got under way in 2005.

"Thompson, a Republican, was the co-chair of Democrat Blagojevich's transition team when he won election in 2002."

Thompson always knows where the money is. Except when he doesn't want to.

* * *

Marin notes in her column, as she did on Channel 5, that Blagojevich's lawyers are poring over the decision.

One day, they too will be making such an appeal.

Daley's lawyers too.

* * *

From the Tribune's endorsement of George Ryan for governor, Oct. 25, 1998:

"Ryan's experience and record offer confidence he will be an effective governor. In 25 years of public service as a legislator, speaker of the House, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, he has earned enthusiastic, bipartisan praise for his great capacity to work with people and get things accomplished . . .

"Ryan's greatest strength is [successor Jim] Edgar's most notable weakness. Ryan, unlike Edgar, revels in the political cajoling and arm-twisting that isn't always pretty, but can be effective.

"Our enthusiasm for Ryan is tempered by a couple of factors. One is the ongoing scandal of alleged sales of truck-driving licenses in the secretary of state's office that has led to federal charges against two current and one former employee. In his defense, it should be noted that they weren't George Ryan hires - the two employees joined the office long before Ryan did, and the third person had retired before Ryan came on board. But it is deeply troubling that Ryan's own investigators failed to ferret out the scandal and that bribe money allegedly wound up in Ryan's campaign.

"Troubling, too, is that while Ryan is a master deal-maker, he is a poor spokesman for his own ideas. He has campaigned as though he assumes voters already know what he stands for. Being governor means being a leader, and being a leader means making the effort to convince the public of the rightness of one's ideals.

"Democrat Glenn Poshard, a five-term congressman from southern Illinois, is a thoughtful, engaging and honest man. His presence will be missed in Congress. However, his prescription for Illinois is the wrong prescription. He is a trade protectionist, even though free trade has been a boon for Illinois. His record on environmental protection and gun control has been, at best, inconsistent. His tax policy ignores the competitive pressures between states to lure and retain business and jobs.

"There is a yawning difference in Ryan's and Poshard's records of experience and effectiveness. Can Poshard manage something as large as the state government? That's anyone's guess. He has never managed anything close to that. Would Poshard be able to push a legislative agenda? That's anyone's guess, too. Although he served four years in the state Senate and a decade in Congress, he cannot point to many major legislative accomplishments.

"George Ryan is a known and tested commodity. He's the best choice to lead Illinois."



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Posted on August 22, 2007


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