A federal jury in Chicago has convicted former Illinois Governor George Ryan (R, age 72) of 18 corruption-related charges stemming from an FBI investigation into allegations that unqualified truck drivers could secure driver licenses in exchange for a bribe. Ryan faces a maximum penalty of 95 years in prison and $4.5 million in fines for racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, tax fraud and making false statements.
Ryan was governor from 1999-2003 and secretary of state from 1991-1999. The FBI investigation has resulted in charges against 79 state workers and lobbyists; 75 people have been convicted. No one has been acquitted.
The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is also investigating the Valerie Plame case in Washington, DC. The sole indictment in that case to date is Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney.
Media report that Ryan was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. However, there is no inherent prestige in being nominated -- anyone can be nominated. The prestige comes from actually being considered -- and that list of persons is not made available by the Nobel committee for 50 years after the nomination.
From The Prosector
"Ryan is charged with betraying the citizens of Illinois for over a decade on state business, both large and small. By giving friends free rein over state employees and state business to make profits-and by steering those profits to his friends and, at times, his family-defendant Ryan sold his office."
US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago on 17 December 2003, the date of Ryan's indictment.
In an emotional-laden editorial, the Chicago Tribune recounts the events of election day 1994. Rev. Duane "Scott" Willis and his wife Janet voted for Ryan for Secretary of State before heading in their car to Milwaukee. An accident involving one of those "illicitly" licensed truck drivers "incinerated" six Willis children. Ryan insisted then -- and when running for Governor in 1998 -- that the truck driver had been legally licensed.
Not unlike President Bush and the non-existent Iraqi biological weapons threat -- repeated for a year despite internal documents to the contrary, internal documents in Illinois cast doubt on Ryan's assertions only eight days after the crash:
An internal memo later established that, just eight days after the Willis tragedy, at least four officials in Ryan's office were aware that "there is a strong possibility that this individual obtained his [commercial driver's license] illegally."
Culture of Corruption?
According to Time, three of the last six governors of Illinois have been "onvicted of political misdeeds." Democrat Rod Blagojevich is under investigation regarding a hiring controversy.
Case information: US v Ryan, 02-CR-506, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago)