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April 17, 2006

Former Illinois Gov Ryan convicted on all charges

As detailed in this article, another high-profile post-Booker sentencing is on the horizon after a "federal jury convicted former Gov. George Ryan today on all charges that as secretary of state he steered state business to cronies in return for vacations, gifts and other benefits for himself and his family."  The article notes that Ryan's "racketeering conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison," but the story of the guidelines calculation and Booker issues make the sentencing realities nuanced and complicated.

In fact, Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune was ahead of the curve on this story when he blogged here that Ryan's conviction would not mark "an ending," but rather serve as "[j]ust the beginning of a whole new process."  I would recommend White Collar Crime Prof Blog as the go-to source for commentary and analysis of all the past and future Ryan action.

For now, I'll just pose one question for reader comment: What sentence should a 72-year-old former state governor (who, by the way, commuted all of Illinois' death row at the end of his term) get for his conviction "on 18 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, false statements and tax violations"? 

April 17, 2006 at 03:53 PM | Permalink


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It will be interesting to watch whether Ryan remains "defiant" pending sentencing with his eye on an appeal. This may matter more now post-Booker as Judge Pallmeyer has the theoretical ability to vary from the so-called (in the 7th Circuit) advisory guidelines.

Posted by: Hmm | Apr 17, 2006 4:21:50 PM

Your question is best directed to the Wilis family. They lost their six children during a car crash with an unqualified truck driver who received a license due to bribes with Ryan's office. They received a $100,000,000 settlement, but their attendence at part of Ryan's trial demonstrates, understandably, that that may not have been enough:

"The corruption scandal that led to Ryan's downfall began over a decade ago with a much smaller focus: a federal investigation into a fiery van crash in Wisconsin that killed six children. From the Wahsington Post on line:

The deadly 1994 crash exposed a scheme inside the Illinois secretary of state's office in which unqualified truck drivers obtained licenses for bribes. Ryan was secretary of state at the time, and prosecutors would later argue that thousands of dollars in payoff money from the licenses went into a Ryan campaign fund."

"The auto accident that set the case in motion killed six children of the Rev. Scott and Janet Willis. A trucking company official later said he believed the truck driver's license was one of several bought from a state official.

The Willises, who received a $100 million settlement, attended parts of Ryan's trial."

Posted by: ward | Apr 17, 2006 4:55:26 PM

I would say that an unrelated abuse of power that is not legally criminal (even though atrocious) is not a ground for increasing the sentence.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 17, 2006 5:58:17 PM

except that even acquitted conduct can be used as a sentencing factor by a federal judge.

Posted by: brian | Apr 17, 2006 7:34:34 PM

Kent: Would that it were so. If the judge finds that Ryan had criminally culpable involvement in the truck license scheme (it must be criminal in nature to count), and if that scheme is deemed by the sentencing judge, by a preponderance of the evidence, to be "relevant conduct" as defined in USSG 1B1.3, and if a victim died as a result of that conduct, then the Sentencing Guidelines suggest, but do not require, an upward departure in the sentence. USSG 5K2.1 (p.s.). And naturally, under Booker, even this suggestion is now only advisory (although it must be "considered," 18 USC 3553(a)(5)). Brian: So-called "acquitted conduct" (which I don't think this example is) may be considered under Watts only if it meets the 1B1.3 definition of "relevant conduct." That's a prerequisite.

Posted by: Peter G | Apr 17, 2006 8:46:42 PM

point taken

Posted by: brian | Apr 17, 2006 10:09:49 PM

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