Reporting Steve Miller
CHICAGO (CBS) – A new push is underway to get former Gov. George Ryan out of prison, as his wife now might only have months to live.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the former governor was convicted and sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison in 2006 for giving out state contracts and leases in exchange for political kickbacks.
The question now is whether he should be released early on account of his wife’s health.
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When attorneys were in court last month trying to get Ryan out of prison, his wife, Lura Lynn Ryan, said, “I’m just anxious to get George home so he can spend a few years with me; what time I have left.”At the time, she thought she had years. Doctors now say she has just months.
“We discovered (Tuesday) night some very grave news, that she has a 7-centimeter tumor in her left lung,” said former Gov. James Thompson, George Ryan’s lawyer and friend of more than 30 years.
The tumor in question is a killer.
“It’s a very fast-growing, aggressive tumor.” Thompson said. “It may have spread to her bones and her liver.”
Notes from Lura Lynn Ryan’s doctors are attached to the motion and say the 76-year-old “began smoking at a very young age” and smoked about a pack a day up until her early 60s. She told doctors she hasn’t smoked during the past several years and doesn’t abuse alcohol.
But now, the former first lady’s doctors say she likely has only months left to live. For that reason, attorneys for George Ryan have once again asked the judge to let the former governor out early so he can be with his wife for what are likely her final days.
“In the meantime, we’ve renewed our motion for bail before Judge Pallmeyer,” Thompson said.
Thompson says U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer could rule on that request at any time. He says releasing the 76-year-old former governor would be the right thing to do, since Ryan has only one interest at this time, and that is to be with his wife.
“He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to Kankakee if he’s released,” Thompson said. “He’s going to be by her bedside. He’s not going anywhere else.”
In court earlier, prosecutors said they are sympathetic to Lura Lynn Ryan’s plight. But they also argued a family member’s poor health isn’t normally a deciding factor in whether to release an imprisoned defendant and that the ex-governor shouldn’t get special consideration.
Presently, Pallmeyer is considering a motion to throw out parts of the former governor’s 2006 conviction. Just a few weeks ago, Thompson argued the Ryan’s mail fraud conviction should be voided.
Defense lawyers have called the anti-fraud laws the case is based on “too vague.”
They say the “honest services” laws are used as a last resort of prosecutors who lack evidence to prove money is changing hands in corruption cases. In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court largely agreed.
Among those who have challenged convictions based at least in part on honest-services laws are former newspaper magnate Conrad Black. A federal appeals court recently cited the high court’s ruling in reversing two of Black’s 2007 fraud convictions — raising at least the possibility he won’t return to prison.
Ryan’s attorneys have asked to present the latest motion for his release at a Dec. 22 hearing.
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