Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kass Hits Nail On The Head In Plea For Leniency For Former Governor

The mainstream news media in Illinois has been abuzz as of late exuding sympathy for the imprisoned former Illinois governor, George Ryan, and his dying wife, Lura Lynn. Ryan has spent about half of the six and one-half year term he received for political corruption while he served as a statewide constitutional officer. Since the day he was first sentenced, his attorneys, including former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, have filed numerous motions and appeals to overturn his conviction, as well as requests for presidential clemency from both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. No one can argue with the tragic circumstances of his wife being diagnosed with terminal cancer and the prospect she will spend her last days in this world without her beloved husband at her side. When U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer rejected Ryan's latest request for relief, the family of George Ryan, lashed out at her decision. His son, George Ryan, Jr. "Homer", called her "heartless and cruel."  "Is this what American justice is now?" he asked.

Most of the media reports seemed sympathetic to Ryan's request for an early release, particularly the Sun-Times' columnist Michael Sneed, a personal friend of the family. "It’s a no!, Sneed declared. "She’s frail, pale and in pain. But she says she is resigned to God’s will. “I can’t change things, but I can hope things will change,” said Lura Lynn Ryan, whose husband — ex-Gov. George Ryan — had just lost his bid for freedom to help his cancer stricken wife." If other people in the news media lost perspective on the issue, the Chicago Tribune's John Kass did not. In his column today, Kass notes Pallymeyer not only found the evidence upon which he was convicted for honest services fraud--which the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed in another Chicago decision earlier involving the former CEO of The Tribune's parent company--she found herself constrained to treat Ryan no differently than other inmates serving a federal prison sentence. Kass' news reporting colleagues gave us the backdrop to Judge Pallmeyer's decison:
In the opinion's final two pages, the judge shot down releasing Ryan from prison to be with his wife, who according to her doctor has three to six months to live "at best."


Pallmeyer referred to "the sad news" of Lura Lynn Ryan's terminal illness. But she noted she had "the painful duty" to rebuff even more compelling requests for freedom, including by those who are the sole supporters of children or the lone caregivers for disabled relatives.

"Any sensitive judge realizes that a lengthy prison term effectively robs the convicted person of what we all value most: months and years with loved ones, some of whom will no longer be there when the sentence has been served," she wrote. "Mr. Ryan, like other convicted persons, undoubtedly wishes it were otherwise. His conduct has exacted a stiff penalty not only for himself but also for his family."

Pallmeyer, considered among local attorneys to be a compassionate judge, presided over Ryan's six-month trial in 2006. Her 61/2 -year prison sentence was less than prosecutors had sought and near the low end of federal sentencing guidelines, said Patrick Collins, a former federal prosecutor who led the case against Ryan. A jury convicted Ryan of racketeering, fraud and other charges for accepting gifts for himself and his family in return for lucrative state contracts and leases.

"I don't think anyone in the prosecution is rejoicing about the decision, but Judge Pallmeyer made the right decision," Collins said.

Ryan's attorneys pledged to appeal Pallmeyer's ruling and to petition the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to release Ryan on "compassionate grounds."
Kass took strong exception to the younger Ryan's condemnation of Pallymeyer's decision as an indictment of our criminal justice system.

Usually, the guys with clout line up behind a special somebody and things happen. They apply institutional, legal and media pressure. The rules and the law get bent.


The special somebody is portrayed by friendly media not as a crook, but as some kind of victim. And that's how the guys with power get their way.

The people know that the law isn't necessarily the law for the guys with clout. They know this because they live in Illinois.
Kass noted Judge Pallymeyer said no to those with clout who always seem to get their way in having the rules of justice bent to favor them over ordinary citizens. "Just because you have the Illinois political class behind you — even U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin soiled himself by publicly pleading for Ryan's early release — doesn't mean that politicians are above the law," Kass wrote. "U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer stood up to the guys with the clout. And she said something they're not used to hearing," Kass said. "She said no." As he always so eloquently makes his point, Kass reminds his readers about the forgotten victims of Ryan's corruption--six children who died a very painful death.

It started on Election Day in 1994, when six Illinois children were killed in a fiery crash in Wisconsin. Their parents, Scott and Janet Willis, had voted that morning to re-elect Ryan as Illinois secretary of state, the office that was his springboard to the governor's mansion.


It turned out that the driver of the truck involved in the Willis crash had paid bribes for his license under Ryan's watch. Bribery was rampant in Ryan's office, with the cash going to fund his ever-increasing campaign treasury.


So when the crash took the lives of the Willis children, and Ryan learned of it, he quashed the investigation into whether bribes were paid.

He was convicted of this — something conveniently forgotten by his media apologists — and on this alone he should remain in prison for his entire 61/2-year sentence.

The crash became an issue in his 1998 campaign for governor. So Ryan responded the way he knew how, by promising billions in state funds — what would eventually become his $12 billion Illinois FIRST spending package — to feed the special interests.

Those interests had their own press agents and spinners and they were hungry. Naturally, they argued that Ryan was a great guy, a man who'd "get things done." They had one thing on their mind: to feed and feed and feed.

Lured by the billions Ryan promised, Illinois stepped lightly over the graves of those Willis kids and reached for the money. He bought his way clear, at least for a time.

And that's the larger sin. That's how the corruption of elected officials infects the rest of us.

Yes, Ryan stepped over those kids first. But many followed. Political leaders, business leaders, institutions and voters, too, were coerced.

The stain of that bargain can't be easily cleansed. But Judge Pallmeyer's eloquent opinion, and her bravery in standing up to the guys with clout, is certainly a start.
It's always refreshing when someone in the mainstream media gets it. I would almost lay bets that President Obama grants clemency to Ryan before the year is over. That's what those with clout, both Republicans and Democrats, and their friends in the mainstream media expect him to do, after all.

3 comments:

Indy4U2C said...

Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer's statement should be posted in every trial and appeals court in the nation.

"Any sensitive judge realizes that a lengthy prison term effectively robs the CONVICTed person of what we all value most: months and years with loved ones, some of whom will no longer be there when the sentence has been served," she wrote. "Mr. Ryan, like other CONVICTed persons, undoubtedly wishes it were otherwise. His conduct has exacted a stiff penalty not only for himself but also for his family."


In short: there is punishment for crime!

Indy Student said...

Why can't Ryan just ask to be out to care for his wife, and will resume his prison sentence upon her death?

Asking to get rid of his prison sentence is a slap in the face to our justice system.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Why can't he just sit in prison like the other criminals? Or, since he is a politician, is he exempt from the law?