UPDATED 11/22/10 1:35 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A judge says she will soon rule on whether former Gov. George Ryan will be released early from prison.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer heard two hours of mostly dry, legalistic arguments on the issue Monday.
But one of Ryan’s attorneys, Andrea Lyon, also made an impassioned appeal to Pallmeyer to release Ryan from prison pending a final ruling on the grounds that Ryan’s 76-year-old wife is terminally ill.
Lyon pointed across the courtroom at Lura Lynn Ryan sitting on a bench and using an oxygen canister to help her breathe. Lyon says she may have just months to live.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Ryan’s attorneys’ primary argument is that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on an anti-fraud law applies to the former governor, and should lead to an early release.
Prosecutors have argued Ryan’s 2006 convictions should stand because they involved receiving bribes and kickbacks. The Supreme Court ruled that such crimes can be prosecuted under the so-called honest service provisions.
But parts of the honest services law were tossed out for being unconstitutionally vague. Defense attorneys say this is enough to release Ryan.
“George Ryan is now in prison serving time for something that the United States Supreme Court has said is not a crime,” Ryan defense attorney Dan Webb said in September. “In the closing argument that was given by the prosecutor in this case, the prosecutor told the jury that the jury does not have to find that there’s any bribes or kickbacks whatsoever in order to convict on the mail fraud statute.”
Webb told a federal judge in September that Ryan has served the maximum amount of time in prison that he would face if the honest services counts against him were tossed out. Webb argues that unless it is proven that Ryan took a bribe, he must be released.
Ryan remains in prison in Terre Haute, Ind., and was not in court Thursday morning. But his wife, Lura Lynn, was present, as were his defense team – Webb and former Gov. James Thompson.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Nancy Harty Reports
Ryan was convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI when he was secretary of state and later governor from 1999 to 2003.
He has served about three years of his 6 1/2-year term.
Former media mogul and Chicago Sun-Times parent company owner Conrad Black was also convicted under the honest services law and sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison. But he was released from prison as defense attorneys appeal that conviction.
For the Ryan case, the judge says a decision will likely be reached Monday, but will not be released until another day.
(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)