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Illinois ex-governor Ryan appeals conviction following honest services ruling

Former Illinois governor George Ryan [JURIST news archive] on Tuesday filed a motion [materials] in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] asking the judge to vacate his prison sentence, following a recent US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] decision that allegedly set new precedent supporting Ryan's appeal. In June, the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] in Skilling v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the "honest services" doctrine [18 USC § 1346 text] is not unconstitutionally vague under a limited construction of the statute. The Supreme Court subsequently reversed and remanded the conviction of Canadian media mogul Conrad Black [JURIST news archive] after holding in Skilling that the honest service statute was limited to bribery and kickbacks. Ryan argues that under this new "honest services" precedent, he should be released from prison and his convictions for mail fraud and for violations of the Rackteer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [18 USC § 1961 et seq.] should be thrown out. Ryan is currently serving a 6 1/2-year sentence [JURIST report] in federal prison on corruption charges and is scheduled for release in July 2013 [FBP materials].

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] also tried to cite Skilling in his defense against corruption charges. However, in June, the presiding judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a request [JURIST report] to delay the Blagojevich trial, holding that the Supreme Court's decision was unlikely to affect Blagojevich's case. In 2008, Ryan issued his first public apology [JURIST report] for the crimes that resulted in his imprisonment. Ryan was sentenced in 2007 and jailed [JURIST reports] on corruption charges. Ryan's trial began in 2005, and, in 2006, a jury found him guilty [JURIST reports] on multiple counts of corruption and fraud [indictment, PDF] in connection with a bribes-for-licenses scandal that occurred during Ryan's term as Illinois Secretary of State. Ryan made national headlines and won praise in some quarters in January 2003 when, just before leaving office, he commuted the executions [BBC report] of all Illinois inmates then on death row.

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