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Federal appeals court denies Illinois ex-governor's appeal for release

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court's denial of motion submitted by former Illinois governor George Ryan [JURIST news archive] seeking his release from prison. Ryan argued that he was convicted under pre-Skilling v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] jury instructions and thus 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. The court ruled that the jury found Ryan guilty of bribery giving three reasons. First, the jury was instructed that bribes are considered income under the Internal Revenue Code while gifts from friends are not. Based on this instruction, the jury still found that Ryan had received payments for official acts. Second, the court found that the prosecution did not argue that the jury should convict Ryan because he failed to disclose benefits received Lawrence Warner who provided Ryan and his family with extensive benefits which was disapproved in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] stating that:

The jury rejected the good faith motive. Accordingly, the jury could only have convicted him on this count if it believed that his conduct was a response to the stream of benefits. Ryan suggests that the only "private gain" he received for his intervention in this transaction was the approval of his friend. As explained earlier, however, the jurors must have rejected this argument; they were specifically instructed that if the benefits Ryan received from Warner were merely the proceeds of a friendship, they could not be the basis for a conviction. The court concludes that the jury must have found Ryan accepted gifts from Warner with the intent to influence his actions.
Ryan is expected to be released around June 2013.

In April the US Supreme Court [official website] had ordered [JURIST report] the appeals court to reconsider Ryan's appeal in light of Wood v. Milyard [SCOTUS blog backgrounder; JURIST report]. The court in

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