The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court wants a lower court to look again at the latest attempt by former Ill. Gov. George Ryan to overturn his corruption convictions.
The high court today (Monday) asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reconsider an appeal by Ryan, who has served more than three years of his 6 1/2-year sentence.
Ryan's lawyer, Jim Thompson, says he called Ryan on Monday at the Indiana federal prison where he is serving his sentence. Thompson says Ryan was particularly pleased because this was the first significant ruling that's gone his way since his legal saga began.
Defense lawyer Albert Alschuler says the high court found the appellate judges erred by not considering aspects of the appeal on their merits.
The decision vacates the appellate court's ruling. But Alschuler says it doesn't automatically mean a new trial and that lots of legal wrangling awaits before that possibility.
The former governor was convicted of steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was secretary of state and then as governor, receiving 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.
The appeal was Ryan's latest attempt to get out of a Terre Haute, Ind. prison based on a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that sharply curtailed the use of "honest services" laws, some of which were used in Ryan's conviction. The appeals court ignored the "honest services" ruling and said any errors in instructions to Ryan jurors did not alter the stark fact that Ryan's case involved bribery and kickbacks.
Congress passed a law specifying that fraud can be committed by denying someone one's "honest services" but the Supreme Court has said that bribes or kickbacks must be involved to make a conviction stick.
During Ryan's appeal, government prosecutors said that they didn't think Ryan had defaulted on his chance to bring up the Supreme Court's "honest services" decision, but the appellate court disregarded the prosecutors' argument.
The Supreme Court on April 24 ruled in the Wood v. Milyard case that appellate courts can ignore the prosecution's view, but in Ryan's case justices said that the Seventh Circuit should look at that issue anew.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.