Ryan's Attorney Didn't Know About Secret Visit

Jailed former governor visited dying wife on Wednesday evening

By Marion Brooks and Marcus Riley
|  Friday, Jan 7, 2011  |  Updated 11:56 PM CDT
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George and Lura Lynn Ryan.

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It turns out jailed former Gov. George Ryan did get to spend time with his dying wife after all, and his attorney, former Gov. Jim Thompson, didn't even know about the meeting until it was already happening.

The details of the secret visit, which reportedly took place between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday, were included in a document prosecutors submitted to the court Friday in response to Ryan's motion for bail.

Prosecutors asked the court to deny Ryan’s motion for bail because he'd already been able to visit "through normal prison procedures."

"Although the serious medical problems suffered by his wife are truly unfortunate, they do not warrant special treatment with respect to bail pending appeal in the context of post-conviction proceedings," the filing said.

Thompson said he learned of the meeting when Ryan's son called him to tell him that his father had just walked into his mother's hospital room.  He said the entire family was ushered out of the hospital room and that the children weren't allowed to speak with Ryan during the visit.

Hours earlier, at around noon, Thompson said he called the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington and spoke with the general counsel about with whom he should speak regarding a furlough.  That official directed Ryan to another official in Terre Haute, Ind., where Ryan is incarcerated.

According to Thompson, the official told him that Ryan needed to complete a form requesting the time away.  The doctors also had to send letters describing the former first lady's condition.  Thompson said that doctors even placed a phone call to prison officials.

Ryan's son put up some money, which Thompson said was about $500, to the prison to cover expenses.

That, Thompson said, was the last action he knew of until Ryan's son called Thompson to inform him that the meeting was taking place.

Ryan was driven to Kankakee by the prison administrator and one guard.  He was back in Terre Haute by approximately 1 a.m., Thompson said.

Ryan's lawyer filed a response to the federal filing Friday afternoon saying the government violated the Bureau's policy by making the visit public, and is attempting to use it as a "weapon to deny Ryan's request for bail. This is shabby behavior."

NBC Chicago spoke with former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins to try and get a sense of what the prosecution's strategy may be.

"No one at the prosecutor's office rejoices in opposing bail," Collins said. "I do think the principal issue for the governement is so many prison inmates have these serious family issues that happen in prison, and if they say yes to Mr. Ryan, they literally have to say hes to thousands of other prisoners."

Lura Lynn Ryan was admitted to the hospital Wednesday after apparent complications from chemotherapy. She has been diagnosed with lung cancer as well as cancer in her kidneys, spine, pelvis and liver.  Lawyers have said that Gov. Ryan's wife of 55 years is days, possibly hours away, from death.

Ryan has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer -- the presiding judge in Ryan's corruption trial -- upheld his conviction and denied his request for bond.

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