George Ryan’s five years in prison comes to an end Wednesday, as he moves from Terre Haute, Indiana to a halfway house on Chicago’s near West Side.
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In the next 24 hours, former governor George Ryan is expected to be released from prison after serving five years for political corruption. Guilty of all charges, Ryan has battled the legal system tirelessly since his indictment in 2003, but one of it paid off. Tomorrow, at the age of 78, he officially walks past the prison walls for the first time.
How did one of the state’s most powerful men find himself on the wrong side of the law?
The federal investigation was dubbed Operation: Safe Road, known to many as Licenses for Bribes. It reeled in about 75 convictions. George Ryan was the biggest fish in the pond. He was charged with wrongdoing as both secretary of state and governor. It is the tale of a towering politician toppled by his own greed.
George Ryan was at the top of his game, receiving worldwide attention for his 1999 moratorium on executions in Illinois and for commuting more than 160 death sentences in 2003.
Instead, that same year, after leaving the governor’s office, he found himself in and out of court on racketeering and fraud charges that would scar his reputation, empty his savings and ruin his retirement years because Ryan wanted a trial.
He hired friend and powerhouse defense attorney Dan Webb to represent him.
The 2005 trial lasted about seven months. In that time, Ryan declined to testify, but more than a hundred witnesses were marched in and out of court to tell their version of the licenses for bribes scandal that plagued Illinois. Ryan’s former chief of staff Scott Fawell took the stand as well as countless others, including former Republican senator Phil Gramm. In his testimony, the one-time presidential hopeful referred to Ryan as a “political prostitute.”
Two people who did not take the stand: Rev. Scott Willis and his wife Janet. The parents, who on November 8th 1994, voted to re-elect George Ryan before hitting the road with six of their children in their van. That van burst into flames killing all six kids aboard and setting off the Operation Safe Roads investigation that would, in the end, bring down Ryan. The truck driver involved in the accident got his license illegally through Ryan’s Secretary of State Office.
The lengthy trial was complicated by questionable jury deliberations, giving Ryan, or so he thought, grounds for appeal. In the end, Illinois’ 39th Governor was guilty on all counts and he was forced to served his full sentence, getting out this week for good behavior.
By his side every day in court was Ryan’s loyal wife, Lura Lynn. She was frail, but present-supportive in every way. When George Ryan said goodbye to civilian life in November of 2007, he also said goodbye to his wife of 50 years. In June of 2011, Lura Lynn died while Ryan was serving time. So did his brother.
The pharmacist turned Republican politician’s fall from grace was yet another black eye for the state of Illinois. This week, Ryan will re-enter society at the Salvation Army on Chicago’s near west side. Far from a fresh start for inmate #16627-424 and the end of a very sad chapter.
Former Governor George Ryan may be released from a federal prison as early as Tuesday.
Ryan served time for official corruption.
His wife and brother died while he was in prison.
Now, Ryan is set to end his incarceration at the prison in Terre Haute, Indiana and move to a halfway house on Chicago’s near West Side.
Former Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese lived there briefly after she got out of prison.
She says the ex-governor’s life is going to change dramatically.
Ryan will live in a dorm-style room like this one.
The building also has a lounge.
Loren-Maltese says the building is old, dirty and crowded, and tenants face head counts, pat downs and less freedom of movement than they had in prison.
Former governor George Ryan will be released from prison this week, after five years behind bars doing time for corruption.
He will move to a half-way house in Chicago to finish out his sentence.
Many disgraced public officials have walked the same path.
Former Cicero town president Betty Loren Maltese spent years in a federal penitentiary for political corruption and only two weeks inside the Salvation Army halfway house when she needed a home. In hindsight, she says prison was better. She thinks George Ryan will think so too.
At the halfway house, there are still head counts, pat downs, and no room to roam. Loren Maltese calls the staff professional, but the building crowded, old and dirty. Living there in February 2010 was sheer hell, she says.
Former Chicago city clerk Jim Laski agrees. He called the facility boring and a dull existence. He spent six months there after a year behind bars for his crimes.
The former governor will likely be given a dorm-like room with a bed, a closet, maybe a roommate and that’s about it. There is a gym and a group lounge.
Ryan will be able to have visitors and can even order in food. With time, weekend visits home may be part of the plan. But they don’t come without disruption. Laski said the calls to confirm his whereabouts were exhausting.
Most “residents” as they are called, are required to get a job. Ryan , at 78, may or may not fall into that category because of his age. But he will have to play by the rules.
Former Governor George Ryan gets out of prison this week.
Ryan is scheduled to be released on Wednesday.
He’s spent five years at a federal prison camp in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Next up for him is a half-way house on the near West Side of Chicago to finish his sentence for a corruption conviction.
Ryan is 78-years-old now.
He will be required to find a job during his time at the half-way house.
He will complete his sentence in July.
Multiple published reports say former Illinois Governor George Ryan will be released from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana next week.
The Sun Times and The Daily Herald cite sources that confirm Ryan will head to a Chicago halfway house on January 30.
Ryan, 78, has served five years in prison on corruption charges. His official release date is July 4, 2013. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is not commenting on the reports or confirming the upcoming release.
The Salvation Army halfway house in Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood is the same facility that housed Ryan’s former Chief of Staff Scott Fawell in 2008 and other convicted politicians, including former Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese and former Chicago Alderman Edward Vrdolyak.
Ryan will be required to find a job while he stays at the halfway house and transitions back into freedom. He will be required to return to facility by 7 pm every night.
Ryan was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006 and sentenced to six and a half years in prison.