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Question of the day

Thursday, May 29, 2008

* Sun-Times

Justice will not have been served if [George Ryan] is released from prison early. […]

Despite his conviction, and an appellate court decision affirming it, Ryan, as far as we know, has never admitted to breaking any laws. And in his persistent efforts on Ryan’s behalf, Thompson reveals his own reluctance to acknowledge Ryan’s guilt.

* Daily Herald

Ryan has never recognized his conviction. […]

On the night before he went to prison, he struck a defiant pose, proclaiming his innocence and saying he would begin his sentence “with a clear conscience.” […]

To grant him special favors after all that would not only be unfair. It would invite the public’s continued cynicism about our institutions of government.

* Bernie has some background on the Ryan-Bush relationship.

* Question: Should President Bush commute George Ryan’s sentence and set him free? Explain. [Note that we’re not talking about a full pardon here, just a commutation.]

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:13 am:

    No. Not unless he takes whatever reason he cites and uses that to let everyone else in similar circumstances out early.

    We will see how seriously Bush takes “the rule of law” the Republicans (and Democrats) are so fond of praising. Based on the past actions of Bush regarding his allies and other Presidents at the end of their terms, I expect Ryan will be on the streets by the end of next January.

  2. - Undercover - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:14 am:

    I am of conflicting opinions here.

    On the one hand, George Ryan was convicted and should be required to serve out the remainder on his sentence. It sets a bad precedent to allow corrupt Illinois politicians a “get out of jail free” card, especially during a time when the tide seems to be slightly turning in favor of reform.

    On the other hand, he’s very old and has a family. It doesn’t give me any great satisfaction to see a pathetic, corrupt old man in jail.

    Then again, why should he get special favors because of his political clout? Everyone sent to jail should be so lucky.

  3. - MTP - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:18 am:

    Yes. By the time in commutation could occure (probably January), Ryan would have served a significant portion of time behind bars, and will have been wrecked in terms of reputation and finances.

    No one could say he hadn’t been punished, and then he’s not facing a life sentence — which is what a full serving of his term might well mean.

  4. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:20 am:

    If Ryan would apologize to the people of Illinois and the Willis family, plus admit his guilt, I would support commutation. He has been ruined. He was not evil, but he did wrong. I take no satisfaction from an old man possibly dying in prison.

    If he can’t do that, then I believe he has to complete his sentence.

  5. - Ravenswood Right Winger - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:20 am:

    No. But if it happens, you can thank the Bob Kjellander/Big Jim Thompson combine of Illinois GOP politics. Kjellander is pals with Karl Rove.

  6. - Amuzing Myself - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:21 am:

    Absolutely not. He was convicted. He should do his time. It’s unfortunate that he feels he’s been singled out for doing “what’s been done in Illinois for as long as ….” probably he could remember. That still didn’t make it legal.

    What’s worse, even after this whole saga, there are still those on both sides of the aisle that just don’t get it. It’s a new day, and they’re going to get caught. It’s just a matter of time. The denial in Springfield and Chicago is so out-of-touch with reality, it’s pathetic. The only “good” that might come of a commutation would be the outcry from the electorate even more adamantly demanding reform. But the problem would be the misplace anger at the ballot box it would create at Republicans when Democrats are the ones so poorly running the show these days - further enabling the Emil Joneses of the world.

  7. - lifer - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:24 am:

    Had he gone to prison closer to the time the corrupt actions occurred he would be out by now. He tried everything to stay out and now says it is a death sentence. Like killing your parents and asking for mercy because you are an orphan. The Willis children got the death sentence.

  8. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:31 am:

    Yes. He has lost his pension, his power and his dignity. He has paid enough.

  9. - Vote Quimby! - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:38 am:

    Should he? No…the sentence was fair and I don’t think he’s out swinging a sledgehammer on the rock pile. The sentence is a deterrent and punishment for the lifestyle he led which was illegally obtained (remember the Jamaica trip?)
    Will he? If a Democrat wins the presidency I see Ryan’s app sitting in the rubber-stamp pile on January 19.

  10. - Dan S, a Voter & Cubs Fan - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:38 am:

    NO, he did the crime, was convicted by a jury of his peers and was sentenced to a term dictated by the statutes. Plus unless you want the next next convicted Illinois Governor to receive the same treatment then no way.

  11. - Loop Lady - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:39 am:

    No, no, and no…or what part of no don’t you understand?

  12. - Loop Lady - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:40 am:

    No, no and no

  13. - Just a Citizen - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:40 am:

    Yes—I agree totally with He Makes Ryan look Like a Saint–Losing his pension, power, and dignity is enough of a price to pay for his crime.

  14. - Plutocrat03 - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:47 am:

    It is difficult to accept the argument that former Gov. Ryan should be released because he is old.

    I can make the argument that he was mature enough to know better and that there should be a stiffer punishment because of his maturity.

    There also seems to be a bit too much sympathy because he has a family and his finances have been wrecked. I can make a case that a young man or woman who has had a difficult time in life due to poverty or lack of opportunity also has a family who is suffering because of the crimes that were committed and has their finances ruined. Why should their circumstances be any less compelling with respect to a commutation or extreme reduction in sentence. Is what Gov. Ryan did less wrong than what Betty Lauren Maltese did? Should her sentence be commuted because she has a child to take care of?

    Gov. Ryan knew what the rules were and spent years enjoying the illegal fruits of his actions. It seems to me that if were are too quick to reduce the prison terms of those who abuse their powers, the deterrent will evaporate for those who currently are in office. We further run the risk of fueling the feelings of unfairness when we consider special treatment for the political class over that of the general prison population.

    The sentence was 6-1/2 years with months spent on appeal before he went to start his term. IMHO he should serve at least half his term. That would make it Feb of 2011.

  15. - Ghost - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:50 am:

    I would support commutation if 2 things occured; First Ryan admitted to the wrongdoing and apologized; Second they commuted the sentence of every other non violent criminal over the age of 60.

    Ryan was convicted of using his position to abuse the system for financial gain. Letting him abuse the system one last time to get out early would be a tribute to the very conduct we supposedly sent him to jail for. If we are not looking to commute all criminals convicted of non-violent crimes who are Ryans age, then its just another abuse of power to do so for him alone.

  16. - Moline Maleman - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:53 am:

    If I had the power I would let him out of jail today.

  17. - Thomas Westgard - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:54 am:

    If there’s a principle of letting people out when they are old and have no pension, then fine. But let’s not start (or end) with George Ryan. There are a lot of elderly, pensionless prisoners in the joint. You want to let all of them out too?

    There should be one rule that everyone follows. Letting George Ryan out for these reasons is unique “justice” - in other words, not justice at all.

  18. - The Rookie - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:56 am:

    Two words…

    Limited Government

    Answer: NO!

  19. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:12 am:

    No he needs to do the time. He’s been very arrogant and defiant in this whole process. Let him serve out his sentence.

  20. - Don't Worry, Be Happy - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:18 am:

    The only reason this is being discussed is because Ryan was governor, and that was how he was in a position to build a relationship with Bush that he is now trying to trade on. The irony here is that the corruption scheme Ryan was convicted of led to his being elected governor. Arguably it as the success of his crimes that put him in a position to be able to appeal to Bush for help. His criminal activity basically allowed him to buy the governorship which allowed him to be able to go the president.

    In other words, Ryan used the proceeds of his criminal acts to buy the access to Bush that might allow him to receive special consideration.

  21. - Levois - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:19 am:

    It would set a bad precedent if Bush offered Ryan a pardon. We shouldn’t make a man less culpable for not stamping out corruption than if he was actively engaged in it. I’ll say no!

  22. - decaturvoter - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:20 am:

    Heck look at the crooks Clinton pardoned before he left office.Plus Ford pardon Nixon for far greater crimes. George has lost his honor already just let him go home.

  23. - steve schnorf - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:25 am:

    Absolutely “yes”. All sense of proportionality is lost here. His “financial gain”?–a free week on an island from a friend? A series of other mickey-mouse things. If George Ryan should serve 5 1/2 years for the things he was accused of doing, and we look at the dollar figures in the trials currently going on, Stu Levine would have to be sentenced to a thousand years.

  24. - Free James Brown! - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:28 am:

    Set him free. It will be a good precedent when Blago asks for one in 2010.

  25. - zatoichi - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:33 am:

    If Ryan is able to get out for being old, ill, treated unfairly, lost his pension, having a family, time he would have already done if he had not appealed, knowing Bush, or any other reason then the same rationale should apply to every other person with similar circumstances. Will all the elderly Joe Schmoes in prison have their sentences dropped?

  26. - Little Egypt - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:47 am:

    BEN, JOSEPH, SAMUEL, HANK, ELIZABETH, PETER. Those names should be etched into our memory forever. I don’t give a rats behind about George Ryan’s family. They can all come see him. You want to talk about proportionality? I’m in favor of giving George a Get Out Of Jail Free card when the Willis children can be brought back to life. That’s what I call proportionality. Oh, and give Stuey the 1,000 years too.

  27. - Anon - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:49 am:

    The only reason I would say “yes” to a commutation would be to respond to all the idiots who bring up the Willis children. What happened to them was tragic, but it was the result of a part falling of the truck. It had nothing to do with the driver’s competence, languge skills or lack of a kosher license. It would have occured no matter who was driving the truck. Mentioning the accident (or Ryan’s lack of remorse for “causing” it) as a grounds for letting Ryan rot in jail is just ignorant and spiteful.

  28. - cermak_rd - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:50 am:

    Why not commute his sentence to home monitoring? Then he could spend his days with his wife and family at his own home.

  29. - steve schnorf - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    Ryan didn’t kill or cause the death of the Willis children. That’s just silly thinking. Somewhere today in the Secretary of State’s office an employee will take a bribe for improperly assisting someone in getting a driver’s license. If that driver has an accident tomorrow that won’t be Jesse White’s fault.

  30. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:58 am:

    Steve, Ryan actively covered up his office’s culpability. And he went to great lengths. He must’ve assumed he had some responsibility.

  31. - steve schnorf - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:04 pm:

    Rich, I absolutely disagree. Every SoS would prefer that the public not know that employees take bribes. And, for better or worse, until very recently, fundraising tickets were sold to SoS employees, and that wasn’t a matter that the press or public was encouraged to talk about.

    I strongly believe that’s what it was all about, avoiding the political embarrassment and fallout, not some great criminal conspiracy to cover up grave criminal acts they were aware of, and it ended up just blowing up in their faces.

  32. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:06 pm:

    Steve, the massive coverup (including shutting down the coppers office itself) began after info surfaced that the truck driver had a bribe license. It wasn’t about the bribes, per se, it was about the wreck.

  33. - True Observer - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:16 pm:

    First, he should die in prison for having caused all the misery to the families of victims by clearing out death row to try to get the sympathy of the lib/dems.

    second, he should never have been prosecuted for something (selling tickets to fundraisers, for heaven’s sake) that was and is done day in day out.

    His mistake was hiring a high profile lawyer like Thompson who doesn’t have the foggiest about how to defend people who take small time bribes.

    Thompson made a high profile case out of it and everyone including the judge got sucked up into getting their 15 minutes at Ryan’s expense.

    A one year rookie defense attorney would have gotten him off.

  34. - Little Egypt - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:23 pm:

    As much as I admire Jesse White and IMHO the fine job he has done of cleaning up the huge mess Ryan left behind, absolutely, positively, if it were proven that a trucker received a CDL illegally because of a bribe given to an employee to pay for fundraising tickets and that driver caused an accident involving fatalities, yes the blood of innocent lives would be on his hands. I’m not going to be hypocritical about my thinking.

    Plus Steve, the current SOS will not accept money from employees and with your connections, I would think you could come up with an exact date Jesse instituted that policy instead of just “very recently.”


    Let’s not ever forget those kids. Let’s give meaning to their short lives and keep George Ryan where he currently is and where he should stay for the rest of his sentence. The buck has to stop somewhere and it might as well be with George.

  35. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:26 pm:

    However, it should be noted that Ryan was NOT convicted over that Willis situation.

  36. - Little Egypt - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:30 pm:

    Anon 11:49 - Richard Guzman was the trucker in the crash that caused the death of Ben, Joseph, Samuel, Hank, Elizabeth, and Peter Willis. HE COULD NOT SPEAK NOR UNDERSTAND ENGLISH. Drivers on the freeway were trying to alert him to the dangling part on his truck. He didn’t understand them, he didn’t get it, he didn’t pull over because he had become aware of the part about to fall off the truck, get run over by the Willis van, puncture the gas tank, and become a crematorium for those 6 children. Don’t ever tell any of us here that we don’t have the right to bring up the names of those 6 precious children. It takes real testicular virility to call us idiots because we don’t want those 6 children to have died in vain. I will bring up their names every time I have a chance and if you don’t like it, you certainly don’t have to read it.

  37. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:31 pm:

    Nobody said you didn’t have the right to bring up their names. But you’ve made your point, now move along.

  38. - Anon - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:38 pm:

    “Drivers on the freeway were trying to alert him to the dangling part on his truck.”

    Rich, I apologize for taking this off on a tangent, but who believes that the man’s inability to speak english had to do with the failure to communicate while everyone was driving 60+ on the freeway? You can hang a lot on Ryan, and I basically feel he should stay in jail for what he did, but you cannot pin the Willis children’s death on him.

  39. - Thomas Westgard - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:52 pm:

    George Ryan is a convicted felon. As of today, he is Prisoner #16627-424. Examining the exact nature of #16627-424’s misdeeds is a red herring. If every prisoner’s actions got this level of scrutiny, we would never talk about anything else, and no one would ever be convicted.

    If #16627-424 does something that merits leniency under existing rules, so be it. If #16627-424 is the first to receive leniency under a new rule that applies to all others as well, that’s okay too. But right now, #16627-424 is the only prisoner we’re talking about, and that’s unjust.

  40. - steve schnorf - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 12:56 pm:

    Rich, not only not convicted, but not even charged by the zealous federal prosecutor. As to your earlier point, once they started down the wrong path, intentionally and ill-advisedly or not, regarding the Libertyville driver’s license facility raid, they were screwed. From there it just snowballed, and must have begun to seem like a nightmare. Who knows who exactly knew what and when, but I still don’t believe that here was ever a conscious decision, at least not by George Ryan that “let’s commit further criminal acts by covering up criminal acts we already know about.”

  41. - Little Egypt - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 1:06 pm:

    I’m thankful the jury believed the prosecution and apprently so did the Appellate Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

  42. - Anon - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 1:34 pm:

    Ryan did many wrong things, but I think it’s unfair sensationalism to pin the deaths of the Willis kids on him. Remember, there was no collision between the van and the truck. What happened was that a piece of the undercarriage fell off the truck and the Willis van ran over it. Does anyone really believe that if the driver had obtained his CDL properly, this would not have happened? Do we even know that is the driver’s responsibility to check the undercarriage or that some mechanic at the trucking company screwed up?

    So the argument must be that if the driver hadn’t obtained the CDL illegally, he wouldn’t have been on the road and the accident wouldn’t have happened — a “but-for” scenario. But who is to say that the driver wouldn’t have driven without a license or that another driver wouldn’t have driven the same truck and caused a similar accident? Take this example. A driver who illegally obtained his license is sitting at a red light and is rear-ended by a drunk driver. Is the accident the former’s fault because he shouldn’t have been driving in the first place? That’s specious logic.

    Again, Ryan committed numerous crimes, but I think that part of the reason he has been unwilling to accept responsibility is that some have tried to claim he somehow murdered these children, which is baseless.

    If anything, the accident might have been avoided if we required prospective immigrants to learn English. Several motorists warned the driver in English about the dangling part, and he was not able to undetstand as he spoke Spanish.

  43. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 2:32 pm:

    Why? His age? His former position? His death penalty stand?

    No. It’s not like he’s in for life or at Tamms.

    They need the cell for another governor?

  44. - wise thinker - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 2:46 pm:

    Yes he should get his sentence commuted based upon the prosecutorial misconduct of U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his staff members in granting immunity to jurors who falsified documents among other contentions of misconduct only to get a guilty verdict. Justice is fair not blind. In the word of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,”an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”.

    You have the pot (the prosecution) calling the kettle black (George Ryan) and Bush will most certainly commute his sentence not only on principle but also as he has a point to prove to Fitzgerald and his prosecution of Libby.

  45. - pingu - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 3:18 pm:

    There absolutely is a direct link between Ricardo Guzman’s illegal license and the accident that incinerated the Willis children. Specifically, there was a lot of testimony that other truckers warned Guzman, via CB, that his taillight assembly was loose and could come off. Guzman, of course, didn’t speak English (which is a requirement to receive a non-bribe based CDL in Illinois). Hence, the warnings went unheeded (because they were not understood), and the kids all died when the piece broke off and punctured the fuel tank of the Willis van. Spin all you want, but Ryan’s SoS corruption killed those kids.

  46. - Little Egypt - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 3:23 pm:

    Thank you Pingu. I’m exhausted trying to convince certain Ryan supporters to see things correctly.

  47. - Bill - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 3:37 pm:

    Cut him loose. He has been punished enough. His heroic stand on suspension of the death penalty saved many innocent lives. Ryan had nothing to do with the Willis accident. He wasn’t prosecuted or convicted of having anything to do with that. Write the names as much as you want. That wasn’t Goerge’s fault and that is not why he is in jail.

  48. - Garp - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 3:56 pm:

    You should not show mercy to someone who has not acknowledged his errors. The bible teaches us that we must ask for forgiveness before we get it. If he can’t own up to his sins there is no justification for society to be lenient to him.

  49. - plutocrat03 - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 4:13 pm:

    Please do not state as fact things that you have only second or third hand knowledge of.

    Read the depositions in the trial. Mr. Guzman alternately spoke english or not. A convenient dodge for the bi-lingual. Furthermore, there is no requirement to have your CB radio on while travelling. It is a fantasy that a non-bribed CDL driver would have been able to get the message that there was a dangling part.

    No truck driver would have conducted a pre-trip inspection which would have been thorough enough to pick up the cracked assembly.

    Parts fall off trucks eveyday. I dodged one last week.

  50. - Anon - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 5:20 pm:

    You don’t have to be fluent in English to get a CDL, just be able to pass the test given in English. So you could learn just enough English to pass the test and still not know it well enough to know that the other drivers were yelling.

  51. - A Citizen - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 6:09 pm:

    Yes, his sentence should be commuted. Maybe he could do community service by finishing out guv’s term? Bill is right though and his reasoning sound. Let the old man go home and care for his beloved aging wife. My god! What kind of a vengeful society are we?

  52. - Senor Momentz - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 6:30 pm:

    If they denied Guzman from having a driver’s license due to his failure to speak English, would the Office of the SOS have been sued by LaRaza or other militant Latino groups?

  53. - Come On Now - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 6:52 pm:

    George Ryan, like him or not, did not get a fair trial at all.

    The judge made terrible decisions. Anyone else would have gotten a mistrial almost immediately.

    The jurors bringing in their own case law alone was absurd.

    Bullying of a juror was worse.

    Warner and Ryan should not even have been tried together.

    Since George Ryan looks like a corrupt politician out of central casting, he must have been.

    Many persons were investigated and charged by the SoS, but could not be fired due to the ostensibly independent SoS Merit Commission hearing officers who routinely refused to approve the charges.

    Some of Marion Seibel’s bribe money may have ended up in Ryan’s campaign fund.

    Some of Marion Seibel’s bribe money may have ended up at Jewel or Field’s.

    The FBI tried to infiltrate, but couldn’t successfully for years because everyone there knew who they were.

    Maybe it was the windbreakers that said “FBI.” LOL.

    But I personally am not laughing out loud.

    Finally, with regard to the “removal” of then-SoS inspector general off the investigation, I do not believe any constitutional officers at the time were even required to have an inspector general. This came in the post-George Ryan era.

    Six children died. But the red herrings and non sequiturs, promoted by the mainstream media, their columnists and aided and abetted by hypocritical prosecutors and legally inconsistent jurists have possibly taken down the right man for the wrong reasons.

  54. - Come On Now - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 7:07 pm:

    And to Steve Schnorf: Take satisfaction in knowing and speaking the truth because you are correct.

    In fact, some top SoS officials were working with the FBI in the investigation.

    All of a sudden, one day in 1999, everything changed. It was probably Libertyville.

  55. - Thunder - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 10:35 pm:

    Why should he be any different than other politicans in the past. Many got pardons that were worst off than Ryan. I think Ryan has lost what he valued the most, his reputation and the lost of respect from his peers and the people of this great state we live in. It is time for forgiveness and stop holding hate in hearts because of his wrong doings.

  56. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, May 29, 08 @ 11:39 pm:

    Let George out. Keeping him in a cell solves nothing. Time to move on.

    I don’t think it’s going to happen, as most folks from Illinois have worn out their welcome at the W White House, not to mention any names.

    Agree with Schnorf-a thousand years for Levine sounds just right, followed by a nice warm spot in the lower chamber.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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