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Federal court denies ex-Illinois governor’s appeal

CHICAGO — A federal court in Chicago on Monday denied George Ryan’s appeal seeking his release from prison, dashing what was widely regarded as the former Illinois governor’s last hope to cut short his 6 1/2-year sentence for corruption.

Even though the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ complex, 16-page ruling didn’t go in the 78-year-old Republican’s favor, he doesn’t have too much longer to wait behind bars. He is scheduled to finish serving his sentence in mid-2013

Last year, the 7th Circuit rejected arguments that Ryan’s 2006 convictions should be tossed because prosecutors never proved he took a bribe. The U.S. Supreme Court in April, however, took issue with how appellate judges reached their finding and ordered them to decide again.

Monday’s opinion says jurors clearly believed prosecutors proved Ryan took bribes.

Ryan was convicted of steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was secretary of state and then as governor, receiving vacations and gifts in return. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes in exchange for truck driver’s licenses.

In an argument rejected now by the courts, Ryan’s attorneys contended there was no evidence Ryan took bribes — that gifts and vacations Ryan received from people who later got state business were based on friendship and not in exchange for financial benefits.

The legal wrangling grew out of a Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling curtailing “honest services” laws, saying they must be applied to clear instances of bribery or kickbacks.

Honest services charges have been used in corruption cases against politicians and corporate executives accused of violating their duty to provide “honest services.”

Defense attorneys have long scrutinized 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. The Supreme Court largely agreed in its 2010 ruling.