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Ryan hopes to pick his prison

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2007/08/23 11:22

At the same time that former Gov. George Ryan wages a last-ditch battle to overturn his federal fraud conviction, he is wrangling for his choice of federal prisons should the appeal fail. Prison officials assigned Ryan to the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth, Minn. But Ryan has asked officials to reassign him to a similar facility in Oxford, Wis., Ryan's attorney, former Gov. James Thompson, said Wednesday.
The conditions would be comparable, but the Wisconsin facility is closer to family, Thompson said.

"His wife is elderly, and it will not be easy for her to make a trip in any event," said Thompson, speaking after a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Chicago.

"If there is some rule that prohibits him from going to Oxford, then I suppose they would have to make the trip to Duluth, which is twice as far," Thompson said.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Ryan's appeal in a 2-1 vote, but it allowed him to remain free on bail while the full court -- made up of 11 judges -- decides whether to review the decision.

At the hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that if the full court declines to hear the appeal, Ryan and co-defendant Lawrence Warner must report to prison within four business days after the appellate court issues its official order.

That official order probably would come within seven days after the full court's decision was announced, lawyers said.

Ryan was convicted in April 2006 on charges that as secretary of state and governor, he doled out sweetheart deals to Warner and other friends and used state resources and employees for political gain.

Ryan was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison, while Warner, who also was convicted, was sentenced to almost 3 1/2 years.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons considers requests to place a criminal defendant in a particular prison but doesn't comment publicly on pending requests, spokesman Michael Truman said Wednesday.

Prison officials, he said, decide placement by looking at the space available and factors such as an inmate's age, security designation, length of sentence, history of violence or need for substance-abuse treatment.

Federal prison camps have dormitory-style housing and limited or no fencing, Truman said. Warner, a businessman and Ryan confidant, has been assigned to a federal facility in Colorado, his lawyers said in court. In papers filed Tuesday before the court allowed him to remain free on bail, Warner sought to delay his surrender because of upcoming cataract surgery.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Thompson argued that if Ryan's latest appeal failed, he would need time to put his affairs in order.

But Assistant U.S. Atty. Joel Levin said 72 hours should be enough and that no further court hearings would be needed.

"It seems to me that now is the time the arrangements need to be made," Levin told the judge. "We shouldn't be back in front of you."

Ryan's hopes for a hearing by the full court were buoyed by a blistering dissent by Judge Michael Kanne, who said juror controversies marred the historic six-month trial and deprived Ryan and Warner of a fair trial.

The full appellate court probably will decide whether to hear Ryan's appeal within six to eight weeks. If they decide to take the case, they may take several more months to read the briefs, hold an oral argument and render a decision.

If the appeal fails, Ryan could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case and grant him bail while the matter is pending, Thompson said. But the nation's highest court agrees to hear very few cases.

Thompson didn't rule out seeking a presidential pardon if the Supreme Court refused to take the case, though he said that option hasn't been given any consideration at this point.

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