Meanwhile, Mike Robinson (an AP "legal affairs" writer) come perilously close to fumbling the ball at mid-field by writing:
His (Ryan's) best hope of getting out before then would be if President Bush would commute his sentence - something the president already has done for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff ... Presidents traditionally issue a few pardons and commute some sentences just before they leave office and a successor is inaugurated.Ah, no need to be so shy. Robinson should have written, "Most presidents grant their highest number of pardons in the last year of their term and "last-minute" spikes are quite common as well. With a fellow Republican in office and the fairly impressive historical record of governors seeking clemency, George Ryan's chances are probably better than most."
Robinson's piece quotes an "expert," Loyola University political scientist Alan R. Gitelson, as saying the chances of a commutation for Ryan are 50-50. Gitelson also guesses that Bush's "message" would be framed as a "humanitarian act," based on Ryan's age and health. Professor Gitelson is an outstanding scholar in the areas of political parties, interest groups and elections. His journal articles certainly made my grad school experience challenging enough! But I can't say that I am aware that he has ever researched or written a single sentence on presidential pardons. Robinson must be located in Chicago and defines "expert" in terms of local campus phone numbers and a little bit of luck in getting an answer during the summer! Nonetheless, it does appear that the Professor is more in tune with the landscape on this story than prosecutor Collins. See Robinson's write-up here.
A few hours ago, Ryan's chief defense attorney, former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, said he will indeed seek a commutation of sentence from President Bush. The Daily Journal asked Timothy O'Neill, a professor at The John Marshall Law School (Chicago), what he thought about the situation, Said O'Neil:
"In my mind that is the last ditch effort. I'm sure his lawyers are already working on that. Ryan is fortunate that in six months or so the president is leaving office. I wouldn't be at all surprised. You'd be crazy not to think that's a possibility."With all due respect to John Marshall (I have recommended students there and know several grads), O'Neill is also quite notable for being completely invisible in the research and literature on presidential pardons. Indeed, one can see his non-clemency related publications listed here. See Journal story here.