KANKAKEE, Ill. — Attorneys for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan asked a federal court Wednesday to free Ryan so he can be at the hospital bedside of his wife of 55 years, who they said was in intensive care surrounded by her children.
One of Ryan's attorneys, former Gov. James Thompson, told The Associated Press that Lura Lynn Ryan's family was called to her side Wednesday morning after she was admitted the hospital suffering complications from chemotherapy.
"Doctors have told the family that they have to go hour by hour," Thompson said. Ryan family members gathered at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee but did address reporters who congregated outside.
An emergency motion filed with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago says Ryan's wife went into septic shock, a complication of her treatment for what the motion describes as incurable cancer of the lungs, back, pelvis, ribs and liver.
"Though neither radiation nor chemotherapy will affect a cure, Mrs. Ryan . . . has elected to receive both treatments in the hope that they will keep her alive until she can be with her husband to say goodbye," the motion says. "She has, at most, weeks to live."
The former governor has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence on convictions of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
The motion asks the court let the 76-year-old former governor out of prison during daytime hours so he can be with his wife, arguing "he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community."
Attorneys also appealed directly to federal prison authorities to release Ryan under a program allowing inmates temporary leave to visit gravely ill family members, Thompson said.
Thompson said Ryan remained in prison as of Wednesday night but that his attorneys were keeping in touch with prison authorities in hopes of winning their client's immediate release.
U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said prison wardens decide whether to grant bedside visit requests, but that the agency cannot disclose whether a request is made or granted due to privacy and safety concerns.
A spokesman at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Ind., where Ryan is being held did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Several calls placed to a main line at the prison were not answered.
Just last month, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer – the presiding judge in Ryan's corruption trial – upheld his conviction and denied his request for bond.
Pallmeyer acknowledged his wife's plight in her ruling. But she placed the blame for the family's predicament firmly on the former governor's shoulders, saying, "his conduct has exacted a stiff penalty, not only for himself but also for his family."
Pallmeyer's 58-page ruling came four days before Christmas and nearly a month after Ryan's attorneys argued parts of his 2006 conviction should be tossed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws – known as "honest services" laws.
The judge ruled that while the Supreme Court case was relevant, Ryan's circumstances were different enough that his conviction should stand.
Defense lawyers have long 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. The Supreme Court largely agreed in its June ruling.
But Pallmeyer ruled that vagueness wasn't an issue in Ryan's case.
"Ryan clearly understood `what conduct was prohibited' and could not have been surprised that he was subject to prosecution," she wrote.
Ryan was convicted in 2006 of steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was secretary of state and then governor for one term. He received vacations and gifts in return. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes in exchange for truck driver's licenses.
Tarm reported from Chicago. Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report from Chicago.