WIFE 'TERMINALLY ILL' | Supreme Court ruling also cited in bid for ex-gov's releasePicture:Lura Lynn Ryan speaks to reporters at the Dirksen Federal Building while attorney Dan Webb, who represents her husband, former Gov. George Ryan, listens. Also pictured is former Gov. Jim Thompson. They are asking a federal judge to grant the early release of George Ryan from prison.
Lawyers for former Illinois Gov. George Ryan are pleading with a federal judge to free him, arguing his wife's terminal illness -- as well as a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision -- should factor into his release.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an honest services law -- which involved some of the charges that faced Ryan. Ryan's lawyers say he has served 34 months of his 78-month sentence and, given the Supreme Court decision, that should be enough.
"George Ryan is now in prison serving time for something that the United States Supreme Court has said is not a crime," Ryan's lawyer, Dan Webb, said after court.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer set a Nov. 1 hearing to weigh whether Ryan should be freed and parts of his conviction overturned because of the decision.
Webb pointed to Ryan's wife, Lura Lynn, who was in court Thursday carrying an oxygen tank that was hooked up to her nose.
"She is terminally ill,'' Webb said. "She has one, two, three years to live.''
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Barsella said that prosecutors "strongly and vociferously disagree'' that the Supreme Court decision had a bearing on the Ryan case.
"In our view, this case was all about bribery and kickbacks,'' the exception to the honest services law that was upheld by the high court, Barsella said.
In a filing last week, Ryan's lawyers urged Pallmeyer to release Ryan as lawyers fight over the law, saying there was urgency because of his wife's illness.
The filing cited 10 medical conditions Lura Lynn Ryan suffers from, primarily pulmonary fibrosis. It also said she suffered a mini-stroke while visiting her husband in prison.
"The stress of being away from her husband exacerbates both her physical condition and her depression," they wrote in the filing.
Ryan is 76 and suffers from Crohn's disease, hypertension and heart disease, his lawyers say.
"It's fair to say that George Ryan has a lot of health issues also. He's a very strong man," Webb said. "We told him to hang in there. He's a strong-willed man."
Ryan's son, George Ryan Jr., teared up when Webb described his mother's condition outside the courtroom.
"I miss him a great deal,'' Lura Lynn Ryan told reporters, herself blinking back tears.
Without intervention, George Ryan is scheduled to be released in 2013.
In 2008, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin urged President Bush to grant Ryan clemency. Weeks later, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges.
The Ryans have renewed a clemency request with President Obama, who has not acted on it.