Ex-gov. Ryan's wife has 3-6 months to live, attorneys say

Associated Press
Updated 12/15/2010 9:14 PM
  • Attorneys for former Gov. George Ryan say his wife of 54 years, Lura Lynn Ryan, has only a few months to live.

    Attorneys for former Gov. George Ryan say his wife of 54 years, Lura Lynn Ryan, has only a few months to live. Daily Herald file photo

Attorneys seeking convicted former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's release from prison said in a motion filed Wednesday that his wife's health has taken a turn for the worse, and she may have as few as three months to live.

The motion adds new medical information about the terminally ill Lura Lynn Ryan to the former governor's bail request.

George Ryan is looking to be released from federal prison on bond as U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer considers a motion to throw out parts of his 2006 conviction based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws -- known as "honest services" laws.

The 76-year-old 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 when he was secretary of state and later governor from 1999 to 2003.

Lura Lynn Ryan, his wife of 54 years, has been diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. Ryan's attorneys have said recently that she might have one to two years to live. But after she was hospitalized this week, doctors at Kankakee's Riverside Medical Center said they found a new mass in her lungs as well as lesions in her liver and cancer in her spine.

A biopsy is scheduled for Monday, but doctors believe she has a "very aggressive cancer and that there is no cure," according to the motion. Doctors have given her "between three to six months to live at best," the motion said.

Former Gov. James R. Thompson, who is one of Ryan's attorneys, called the situation "pretty grave."

"We're very hopeful that Judge Pallmeyer will take this information into consideration when she rules on the motion for bond," Thompson said.

He said attorneys got the new information about the former first lady's condition Tuesday night. They've asked to present the motion at a Dec. 22 hearing.

Notes from Lura Lynn Ryan's doctors are attached to the motion and say the 76-year-old "began smoking at a very young age" and smoked about a pack a day up until her early 60s. She told doctors she hasn't smoked during the past several years and doesn't abuse alcohol.

Pallmeyer said at a Nov. 22 hearing that she would rule soon on Ryan's motions for bond and to have parts of his conviction tossed. Thompson noted the judge could rule at any time, including before next week's proposed hearing.

In court earlier, prosecutors said they are sympathetic to Lura Lynn Ryan's plight. But they also argued a family member's poor health isn't normally a deciding factor in whether to release an imprisoned defendant and that the ex-governor shouldn't get special consideration.

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. In their June decision, the Supreme Court largely agreed.

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. In return, he got vacations and gifts. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes in exchange for truck driver's licenses.

Not all of his convictions are tied to honest services laws and his attorneys are seeking only to have those linked to such laws overturned. If Pallmeyer agrees to strike those, the defense wants Ryan to go free based on time he's served. His current release date is 2013.

Among those who have challenged convictions based at least in part on honest-services laws are former newspaper magnate Conrad Black. A federal appeals court recently cited the high court's ruling in reversing two of Black's 2007 fraud convictions -- raising at least the possibility he won't return to prison.