George Ryan took favors from friends — not bribes.
The gifts and vacations from people who did business with the state amounted to “a friend doing a favor for a friend,” Ryan attorney Albert Alschuler said.
That’s the crux of Ryan’s latest, and likely final, effort to get out of prison early, arguing that prosecutors failed to establish that he took a bribe, as required under the so-called “honest services” laws.
Throwing out those convictions would require releasing the 78-year-old former governor because he already has served the bulk of his 61/2-year prison term, Ryan’s attorneys contended.
“The only appropriate sentence would be time served,” former Gov. Jim Thompson, one of Ryan’s attorneys, said after a hearing Friday before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The former governor wasn’t at the hearing. While describing Ryan “as a strong guy,” Thompson said the ex-governor is eager to be freed from a federal prison near Terre Haute, Ind., ahead of his scheduled July 2013 release date.
“He’s hopeful, he’s anxious,” Thompson said. Ryan could be freed from prison within weeks if the federal appeals court sides with him.
The three-justice panel didn’t issue a ruling Friday, but could make a decision that would free Ryan — who was not at the hearing — within a few weeks, Thompson predicted.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court sent Ryan’s case back to that court to consider whether the instructions given to jurors in Ryan’s 2006 corruption trial were flawed in light of another high court ruling dealing with an arcane legal issue known as honest services fraud.
Defense attorneys have criticized honest services laws as too vague and a last resort of prosecutors in corruption cases that lack the evidence to prove money is changing hands.
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