No new appeal for ex-Gov. Ryan
October 25, 2007
By Mike Robinson
Former Gov. George Ryan, convicted of corruption more than a year ago, took a step closer to prison today after a federal appeals court rejected his request for a new hearing.
Ryan has been free on bond since a jury convicted him in April 2006 of racketeering and fraud for steering state contracts to cronies, using state money to run his campaigns and killing an investigation of drivers license bribery during his terms as governor and secretary of state.
The husky-voiced Republican known for his opposition to the death penalty was sentenced to 61/2 years.
“We agree that the evidence of the defendant’s guilt was overwhelming” at the trial, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its 15-page opinion turning down Ryan’s request for a rehearing by all actively sitting judges on the court.
A three-judge appeals panel already had turned down the appeal by Ryan and co-defendant Larry Warner. Warner, a businessman and Ryan ally, also was found guilty at the trial.
Ryan had been under orders to report within 72 hours of any failure of his appeal, but the appeals court said he could remain free on bond while his attorneys tried for the new hearing.
Whether Ryan now must report to prison within 72 hours or might find some other way to delay the start of his sentence was not immediately clear.
One of his attorneys, former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson,also former U. S. Attorney Northern District of Illinois, had said weeks ago that Ryan’s legal team would fight the case “all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court” if necessary.
Thompson’s office said it had no immediate comment on Thursday’s appellate court ruling.
Ryan’s home phone number rang busy, while a message left on his cell phone was not immediately returned.
Thursday’s order from six majority judges was just one paragraph long and gave no explanation for their refusal to hear the case.
But in a 15-page dissent, three judges said a so-called “en banc” hearing of the entire court should be held on Ryan’s appeal.
The three minority judges said they understood the majority believed any problems in the jury room were “harmless.”
“But harmlessness is not the test of reversible error when a cascade of errors turns a trial into a travesty,” the three judges said.
Ryan’s request for a new hearing, filed with the court Aug. 28, argued the questioning of jurors about tumultuous deliberations made them afraid of the government and thus destroyed their impartiality.
Two jurors were dismissed and replaced with alternates after eight days of deliberations and one juror brought an unauthorized legal document into the jury room, ignoring instructions to the contrary from the judge.
As Pallmeyer sought to understand what was happening in the jury room, jurors were brought in and questioned by the judge and the attorneys.
Prosecutors scoffed at the notion that jurors were intimidated by the questioning.
The snowy haired Ryan had been accused of steering state contracts to Warner and other political friends in exchange for benefits ranging from free vacations in Jamaica to a free golf bag.
Ryan also was accused of killing an investigation of bribes paid in exchange for drivers licenses and using state money and employees to wage his political campaigns. The eight-year investigation began after six children in one family were killed in a highway disaster involving a truck driver whose Illinois license allegedly had been purchased with a bribe.
Ryan was secretary of state at the time. Prosecutors later traced thousands of dollars in bribes to the Citizens for Ryan campaign fund.
The eight-year investigation known as Operation Safe Road resulted not only in the conviction of Ryan and Warner but dozens of other state officials and lobbyists.
The Associated Press
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