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Supreme Court ruling offers hope to imprisoned ex-Gov. Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan

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Updated: July 20, 2012 9:28AM

Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan could get another chance to challenge his fraud conviction, according to a Monday U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lawyers hope will shave time off of his 6 ½ year sentence.

The court, citing a recent case, sent Ryan’s case back to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to consider whether the instructions on the law given to jurors in Ryan’s 2006 trial were flawed in light of another high court ruling dealing with honest services fraud. It is a rare legal victory for the former governor, who repeatedly sought to be freed from prison as his wife, Lura Lynn, was dying. She passed away last year.

Ryan’s appellate attorney Albert Alschuler said that the Supreme Court’s ruling means it goes back to the appellate court to reconsider the question of whether Ryan waived his objections to the jury instructions.

“Ultimately, it means we have a whole lot of issues to consider. But when all of those issues are considered, we’re hopeful the court would give Gov. Ryan a new trial,” Alschuler said.

Former Gov. Jim Thompson said if the Seventh Circuit rules Ryan’s way, the defense will ask that the government drop the counts they are challenging — the ones having to do with honest services.

But the Seventh Circuit would first have to rule that the jury instructions on mail fraud and racketeering counts in Ryan’s trial were defective.

“If those counts were simply dropped by the government then we would ask Judge [Rebecca] Pallmeyer to resentence him,” Thompson said. He said lawyers would ask for time served.

“I can’t imagine that the government would agree to retry him,” Thompson said. “He should be resentenced to a term that would allow him to be freed time served. By the time this is all done, it’s going to be five years.”

Ryan, 78, is scheduled to be released from his Terre Haute, Ind., prison on July 4, 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

He so far has served 4½ years of his 6½-year sentence.

“This is George Ryan’s first victory since this whole thing began,” Thompson said. “I talked to him this morning, he is very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for giving his case a chance to be heard on the merits.”

Thompson said Ryan has surprisingly kept up his spirits.

“He’s doing all right. He’s a tough guy. Even though he’s had all these crises in his life, he’s hanging in there. When I talked to him this morning, he was very excited and very grateful.

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