Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Watch List: Ryan's Appeal Rejected

The Chicago Tribune reports that the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, has turned down the appeal of former Illinois Governor George Ryan, who is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for fraud, racketeering and corruption conviction. Lead prosecutor Patrick Collins says, "The long legal saga of this case is over" - which is, of course, silly. Collins must not be familiar with our Pardon Watch List (where Ryan's name has appeared for many months now). In a moment of greater clarity, Collins editorialized that a presidential pardon would be a disappointment" because it would "send a terrible message to the public about the consequences of public corruption." The former Governor, who maintains his innocence, is 74-years old and suffers from Crohn's disease and diabetes. As a result, the public may be open to more than one "message." See Tribune story here.

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.

2 comments:

JimmyC320 said...

Back in November 1999, my father was killed by a driver who got obtained his drivers license from the scandal. My dad just turned 40two weeks before his death. My mother, little brother, and myself left behind. I was only 13 and my little brother 9 at the time. My dad was a great family man, good provider, and had a perfect driving record with over 20 years of experience. The person who hit him backed into an empty semi truck, crushing my dad to death, and then just drove off. I hope Ryan never gets released.

JimmyC320 said...

Back in November 1999, my father was killed by a driver who got obtained his drivers license from the scandal. My dad just turned 40two weeks before his death. My mother, little brother, and myself left behind. I was only 13 and my little brother 9 at the time. My dad was a great family man, good provider, and had a perfect driving record with over 20 years of experience. The person who hit him backed into an empty semi truck, crushing my dad to death, and then just drove off. I hope Ryan never gets released.

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