Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why I oppose a George Ryan commutation

With the confidence of a someone who just won a third term to the US Senate, Dick Durbin, the upper chamber's second-ranking Democrat, announced that he has asked President Bush to commute the prison sentence of former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, a Republican.

Unlike most political scandals, this one has a death toll. On Election Day morning 1994, the Reverend Duane Willis and his wife, Janet, voted to reelect George Ryan to another term of Secretary of State. The Willises, accompanied by their children, drove to Milwaukee. Tragedy struck: Six of their children were killed when the tail-light assembly of from an Illinois truck fell off the vehicle, colliding with the Willises' car.

The driver, Ricardo Guzman, spoke little English and was not able to understand the warnings his fellow truck drivers gave him about the assembly. Fluency in English is a requirement to receive an Illinois commercial driver's licence, and Guzman got around that by bribing a secretary of state official. Within a week, top officials with the SoS office, and probably Ryan himself, were aware that it was likely that Guzman acquired his licence by paying a bribe.

Three other traffic deaths are tied to drivers who bribed secretary of state employees during Ryan's eight years in that office.

Ryan serves as lieutenent governor prior to becoming secretary of state. His heart wasn't really in the job, he wanted to get elected governor. That takes money. So Scott Fawell, Ryan's top assistant, forced many secretary of state employees to sell tickets to Ryan fundraisers. Lots of tickets. So many that some employees felt they had no choice but to accept bribes to meet their ticket quota.

When he became secretary of state, Ryan appointed longtime family friend Dean Bauer (who is also in prison) as inspector general. It was his job to root out corruption, he wouldn't do that, and at one point discussed cutting the number of secretary of state police because there was so little crime to be investigated.

Bauer pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2001, he and Ryan are just 75 people convicted in the investigation known as Operation Safe Roads.

There were some old style sweetheart deals for secretary of state offices that got Ryan too.

Ryan was elected governor just as the Operation Safe Roads investigation began, but a year after his election, it was clear that Ryan would be a one-termer.

Now he's serving a different kind of term.

Nine dead. 74 other convictions. Lives ruined.

No remorse.

There should be no commutation for Ryan.

Not everyone agrees with me. Patrick Hickey, whose views closely match my own, believes Ryan has served long enough.


Cal Skinner 5:23 PM  

Sunday, John Kass gave an email address where one could contact President Bush:

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