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Monday, November 24, 2008

Pardon me, sir...

So saith former Illinois Governor George Ryan to his old pal, outgoing President George Bush.

Just heard that George Bush issued 14 pardons and two commutations today (thanks Jason). Two pardons of note are a guy from Missouri who inadvertently killed eagles, and a guy from Mahomet, Illinois, who made false statements to the government.

As of November 7, 2008, George Ryan had served one year of his six and a half year sentence for assorted crimes of racketeering and mail fraud.

Back in May (I think it was) when the U.S. Court of Appeals failed to hear Ryan's appeal, his attorney, Jim Thompson, said he would file a petition for a pardon with the president. If the Justice Department is to be believed, as of July, it appears that petition had not been filed:

The department said it had not received petitions from several recently convicted political figures, including [...] and George Ryan, a former Republican governor of Illinois...." (Sentencing Law and Policy Blog.)

So, assuming George Ryan has since filed a petition for a presidential pardon (and I'm sure he has; I just can't find it), should George Bush pardon George Ryan, or commute the remainder of his sentence?

Two things George Bush may consider, among other things: (1) George Ryan never actually apologized for his crimes; and (2) George Ryan let all those people off death row just before his own departure from office, which George Bush might hold against him since it goes against own death penalty policy.

For some perspective, see PardonPower.com and hear NPR's All Things Considered on Sunday:

As President Bush winds down his term, he's sure to consider one last round of pardons. But the Bush White House has been responsible for very few acts of clemency these past eight years — little more than 150 so far. Presidential powers scholar Harold Krent talks to host Andrea Seabrook about presidential pardons.

I don't see George Bush giving George Ryan a pardon or a commute. Thoughts?

Update: Nov. 25, 2008, Noon: SJ-R: Durbin may ask Bush to commute George Ryan prison sentence:

"His family name has been damaged," Durbin said. "He has, at an advanced moment of his life, been removed from his family.He has lost the economic security which most people count on at his age (because of lost pension benefits), and he is separated from his wife at a time when she is in frail health. To say that he has paid a price for his wrongdoing -- he certainly has."

Commute, not pardon.

Update: Nov. 26, 2008:

George Ryan will not be taking responsibility or apologizing despite the fact that this could be the deal breaker on a commutation. Well, obviously I'm speaking for myself and not the president.

Final update on November 28, 2008:

Just had this thought: In the event George Bush does not grant some sort of reprieve, George Ryan can send a new petition to the new administration on January 20, 2009.

Next update, if any, will be in the form of a new entry.

Posted by Marie at November 24, 2008 11:15 PM


Good question. I say Bush does not pardon Ryan. He'll be too busy pardoning all the criminals in his own administration. If he was smart (ha), he would also preemptively pardon himself.

Posted by: Dave at November 25, 2008 9:13 AM

No way should Ryan be pardoned - he did the crime, benefitted from the crime, and hasn't apologized for the crime. So let him do the time. I don't care how old or infirm he is.

Nor do I expect Bush to pardon him. He's a black eye on the GOP, and has helped keep the state solidly Democratic in the presidential elections, so Bush certainly doesn't owe Ryan any favors.

Posted by: Pete at November 25, 2008 9:46 AM

Other alternatives to pardon/commutation:

--Allow his wife to take up residence with him in the hoosegow. I'm sure something could be arranged.

--Set him up with an entertaining roommate also involved in a long-term quest to prove his innocence. Oh, yeah -- as noted in "The Shawshank Redemption," which is a swell film, that describes everyone in stir. Who I had in mind was O.J.

Hearing Durbin describe his situation, you feel bad for the old guy and want to let him out. But it really *does* raise hackles to hear the ne'er-do-wells deny, deny, deny that they ever did anything wrong.

Bottom line, for me: Keeping him in jail might be satisfying on some emotional level, but I don't think it serves the public interest. Better to show mercy, and to remember the lesson when we're dealing with those who deserve it more, much more, than George Ryan does.

Posted by: Dan at December 3, 2008 2:22 AM

why don't we pardon everyone but murderers in every state,thus saving almost 1.2 trillion dollars,and get new and cheap labor.

Posted by: r.deininger at December 11, 2008 8:46 PM

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