Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said today he is sending a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to commute the federal corruption sentence of former Republican Gov. George Ryan to time served in prison.
In a letter to Bush, Durbin noted the 74-year-old Ryan "has lost his state pension benefits and a commutation will not restore them. He would emerge from prison facing economic uncertainty at an advanced stage of his life.
"For those who would argue that a commutation makes light of his crimes, it is clear that he has already paid a significant price and will continue to do so as long as he lives," Durbin wrote in the letter, a copy of which was provided to reporters. "Justice is a sword that should be tempered with compassion. Further imprisonment will not, in my opinion, serve the ends of justice."
Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday also said he believed action by Bush to commute Ryan's sentence would be a "fine decision" in the spirit of compassion. Blagojevich, who won election to succeed Ryan on a theme of cleaning up Illinois' scandal-plagued government, has found his administration subject to several federal investigations regarding pay-to-play politics. Blagojevich has not been charged with wrongdoing.
He said he is satisfied that Ryan has shown remorse for his crimes and hopes Ryan would apologize to the public if Bush issues a commutation. Durbin also said he hopes the former governor would show remorse for the deaths of the six children of Scott and Janet Willis, who were killed in a fiery traffic accident caused by a trucker who obtained his driver's license illegally.
"I would hope he would express his sorrow as I've expressed mine for their loss," Durbin said. "That won't change a thing. His staying in prison won't change a thing."
One juror from Ryan's trial disagreed with Durbin's action.
"I think that once again politicians are getting special treatment because of who they are, and that's not how it should be," former juror Denise Peterson told a Tribune reporter during a phone interview today.
"I had a front row seat and I understand that he's guilty and he's not sorry," said Peterson, who was cited in Ryan's appeal by defense attorneys who said she improperly brought outside research about jury deliberations into the jury room. "He should stay in jail."
Peterson said she understands health concerns surrounding Ryan and his wife, but said that should not be the basis for his release.
"Our politicians are crooks and Dick Durbin should know better," Peterson said.
Denise Peterson is right. These politicians look out for each other, no ordinary citizen convicted of Ryan's crimes would get out after a year.
Ryan was convicted, April 17, 2006, on 18 felony counts against him, including racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
Most of the charges related to Ryan's eight years as Illinois secretary of state in the 1990s, when Ryan oversaw licensing in a department that was rife with bribery.
Joel R. Levin the federal prosecutor in the case said "You've heard of the 12 days of Christmas? This was 12 years of Christmas for Mr. Ryan, his family and his friends. He might as well have put up a `For Sale' sign over his office."
One of the accusations against Ryan's office was that it took a bribes and gave unqualified people truck drivers licenses. One of these truck drivers was later involved in an accident that killed the six children of Scott and Janet Willis.
"Lyin George Ryan" is what Libertarians called George Ryan when he was in office. He had a hand in keeping Libertarians off the ballot in 1998 by disqualifying their petitions through underhanded tactics.