Obama: Opinion on Ryan Fate 'Inappropriate'

President-elect not weighing in on commutation

Thursday, Jul 30, 2009  |  Updated 1:44 PM CDT
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Do you agree with Senator Durbin asking to commute former Governor George Ryan's sentence?

Scott Olson

"Oh my goodness," former Gov. George Ryan's wife, Lura Lynn, said upon hearing news of Sen. Dick Durbin's plea to President George Bush to commute the governor's sentence. "God bless his heart."

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Durbin asks President to Set George Ryan Free

Sen. Dick Durbin wants President Bush to commute George Ryan's sentence to time served, but leaders in Ryan's own party disagree.

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Add president-elect Barack Obama to the growing list of politicians across Illinois issuing statements this week about former George Ryan being released from federal prison.

He doesn't have an opinion.

“As the incoming President, he doesn't feel it appropriate to involve himself in pardon and commutation decisions at this time," said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.

This week, Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk, state GOP chairman Andy McKenna and former lead prosecutor on the Ryan case Patrick Collins all spoke out  against the former governor being released.

The strong reaction was in response to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin asking the president to commute the Ryan's corruption sentence.

In a letter, Durbin asked President George W. Bush to "consider commuting the sentence of George Ryan to time served."

"For those who would argue that a commutation makes light of his crimes, it is clear that he has already paid a signifigant price and will continue to do so as long as he lives," Durbin said.  "Justice is a sword that should be tempered with compassion. Further imprisonment will not, in my opinion, serve the ends of justice."

Ryan has served one year of a 6½-year sentence for racketeering, fraud and other offenses.

Durbin said the former governor has paid a price for his crimes by losing his government pension, having his family name ruined and being separated from his frail wife.

Both Ryan and his wife are 74 years old.

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