A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the corruption conviction of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, raising the possibility that the 73-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee will have to begin serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence.
Ryan, promoted for years for a Nobel because of his opposition to capital punishment, has been free on bond pending appeal since he was sentenced on September 6, 2006.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that Ryan and colleague Larry Warner received a fair trial, despite jury problems.
“The high-profile nature of these proceedings gave rise to some unusual problems with the jury, but we are satisfied that the court handled them acceptably,” the ruling said.
“The district court properly denied the defendants’ new trial motion,” the appeals panel said in affirming the convictions.
In 2006, a jury convicted Ryan and Warner on 18 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud and other offenses involving favoritism and kickbacks for state contracts and property leases that enriched Ryan and his friends. The two maintained their innocence throughout the trial.
Lawyers for Ryan and Warner asked the appeals court to reject the convictions because the trial judge had replaced two jurors while the jury was deliberating. Reports had surfaced that the two jurors had failed to report information about criminal backgrounds when they were called for jury service.
But the appeals court held that U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer acted properly.
Ryan, a Republican, won a single four-year term as Illinois governor in 1998 before retiring under a cloud. He ordered a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000 after 13 death row inmates in the state were found to have been wrongly convicted. Continued…