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Illinois Ex-Governor Ryan Seeks to Upend Conviction

George Ryan, the ex-Illinois governor sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison for corruption, asked the judge who presided at his trial to throw out parts of his conviction on the basis of a Supreme Court decision this year.

Attorneys for the governor, a Republican, cited the court’s June decision in the case of former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey K. Skilling, which narrowed a fraud statute involving so-called deprivation of honest services because it was unconstitutionally vague.

“Under the standard established by Skilling, Ryan’s conviction and sentence are unlawful,” defense attorneys Dan Webb and James Thompson, also a former Republican governor, wrote.

Ryan, 76, was convicted in April 2006 of violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and mail fraud. The verdict was based on conduct that the Supreme Court found not to be criminal in the Skilling case, his lawyers told U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer. Prosecutors relied on the same law in the federal criminal cases against Ryan and former Hollinger International Inc. Chairman Conrad Black.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ryan’s conviction in 2008.

He was prosecuted by the office of Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. His spokesman, Randall Samborn, today declined to comment on the defense request.

Flight Risk

Arguing that Ryan poses no risk of flight, his lawyers asked the judge to grant bail while she considers the underlying request on the convictions. He has been in federal prison since November 2007 and is currently at a facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Black, whose case is being reviewed by a U.S. appeals court in Chicago, was freed on July 23 on $2 million bond by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who presided over his trial in 2007.

Like Ryan, Black had been sentenced to 6 ½ years and was serving that term at the Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in rural Coleman, Florida.

Lawyers for the ex-governor say if his racketeering and mail fraud convictions are voided, he should be freed immediately because he has already completed those portions of his sentence ascribed to his convictions for making false statements, obstruction of the Internal Revenue Service and filing false income tax returns.

Ryan led the fifth-most populous U.S. state from 1999 to 2003.

Rod Blagojevich, the Democrat who succeeded Ryan as governor, was convicted of lying to federal agents after a trial in the same courthouse where Ryan was found guilty.

The jury deadlocked on 23 other counts. U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said he wants the retrial sought by prosecutors to start in January.

Blagojevich was removed from office by the legislature in January 2009.

The case is U.S. v. Ryan, 10cv5512, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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