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Former Illinois Gov. Ryan loses another appeal

By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Former Gov. George Ryan’s hopes of leaving prison early appeared to dwindle Monday with another rejection from a federal appeals court.

Ryan, though, has less than a year left to serve on his 6½-year sentence for racketeering and fraud convictions and could be moved to a halfway house before then.

Still, he is seriously considering his legal options to fight on, his lawyer said.

“We are very disappointed,” said former Gov. Jim Thompson, Ryan’s lawyer and a longtime friend and political ally. “We will take whatever steps we can to continue this fight.”

Since his conviction in 2006, Ryan has filed for relief with higher courts seven times on a number of issues. But the decisions have largely gone against him.

The latest legal battle centered on whether legal instructions given to the jury that convicted Ryan were faulty because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that later altered “honest services” fraud. At issue was whether Ryan’s misconduct involved pocketing bribes.

In oral arguments last month before the 7th U.S. Circuit. Court of Appeals, federal prosecutors said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Ryan was willing to sell his public office for personal benefit. But Ryan’s attorney disputed that, saying the jury never found that Ryan accepted bribes. It is not bribery to make favorable decisions for people who have helped you, he said.

But in its ruling, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit disagreed, saying it relied heavily on the opinion of U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who presided over Ryan’s trial, about whether Ryan took bribes.

“The district court’s opinion canvasses the evidence and demonstrates why a reasonable jury could find that Ryan sold his office to the high bidders,” wrote Judge Frank Easterbrook, who was joined in the opinion by Judges Diane Wood and John Tinder.

Ryan could now ask for a review by the full 7th or petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case.

Ryan, 78, has served nearly five years of his sentence and is due for release from the work camp at Terre Haute early next July, according to the Ferderal Bureau of Prisons. The bureau, however, often releases prisoners to halfway houses in their final year of incarceration.

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