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Ryan’s desperate plea for release as wife’s condition turns ‘very grave’

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The wife of former Gov. George Ryan was admitted Wednesday to the intensive-care unit of a hospital in Kankakee in “very grave” condition, and her family was called to her bedside, according to Ryan’s lawyers, who filed emergency requests seeking to have Ryan released from prison so he can be with her.

“Her condition is very grave,” said former Gov. Jim Thompson, a longtime family friend who is also one of Ryan’s attorneys.

Ryan’s lawyers said in a filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that Lura Lynn Ryan has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for incurable cancer of the lungs, back, pelvis, ribs and liver “in the hope that they will keep her alive until she can be with her husband to say goodbye.

“She is in severe pain and has been treated with morphine,” they wrote. “She has, at most, weeks to live.”

Thompson said Lura Lynn Ryan was hospitalized Wednesday after developing a life-threatening condition called sepsis that can be a complication of the chemotherapy that she’s undergone after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Meanwhile, Thompson said he learned the court has given the government one day to respond to Ryan’s emergency bond motion. “The court has asked the government to respond to our motion by 10 a.m. Friday,” Thompson said.

Asked if Lura Lynn could last until Friday and if she was stable, Thompson said: “I don’t know. She’s alive.”

He said the family has not heard any response yet from the prison warden.

“She’s a desperate person,” Thompson said. “She wanted to see her husband.”

A doctor’s letter that’s part of Ryan’s emergency bail request says Lura Lynn Ryan is under the care “of at least four specialists in the ICU, where her care is critical from hour to hour at this time.”

Ryan is asking for an emergency release to be with his wife through either of two avenues. One is through the appellate court, where he’s asking for an emergency release on bail. The second is with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which has a policy that allows for the temporary release of prisoners under special circumstances.

It wasn’t clear Wednesday night how soon Ryan might get an answer.

Thompson said he thinks the appeals court could act “promptly.”

In his bid to the appeals court, the 76-year-old former governor asks that, if the justices reject his request to be released on bail, they consider releasing him on his own recognizance during the daytime to be with his wife. Then, he’d return to the Kankakee County Jail every night to sleep.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons said the prison warden in Terre Haute, Ind., where the former governor is being held, has the discretion to approve his release.

According to its website, bureau policy allows inmates to win a temporary release for several reasons, including a family member’s illness: “The bureau may authorize staff-escorted trips for purposes such as visiting a critically ill family member; attending a funeral; receiving medical treatment or participating in educational, religious, or work-related functions.”

“An inmate can make a bedside request to a warden,” said Traci Billingsley, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman.

Whether the warden approves or disapproves a request would not be made public, she said.

If Ryan were allowed a temporary release, the government generally pays the salary of the escort staff ­— usually two people —- for the first eight hours, according to the bureau of prisons. The inmate must cover all other expenses, including transportation, according to the bureau.

Ryan lost an earlier bid, in late December, to be freed from prison early to be with his ailing wife.

The former governor has served three years of a 61/2-year sentence after a jury in Chicago convicted him in 2006 of federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

A family member who answered the phone at Ryan’s house Wednesday evening had no comment.

Ryan’s son called last month’s denial of bail “heartless and cruel.” But in an interview with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed the day she learned her husband wouldn’t be freed early, Lura Lynn Ryan hadn’t given up hope. “I can’t control what is happening. Only God can. But I have to trust he’ll come home soon.” Jodi Tvrz, who counts the Ryans as customers at her Kankakee dry-cleaning business and who was visiting the hospital for other reasons Wednesday said the situation “makes me very sad.”

Contributing: Kim Janssen and Cheryl V. Jackson

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