18 December 2003

At Least He Won't Face the Death Penalty

Here's more information on the indictment of former Governor George Ryan:

  • A story in the Chicago Tribune (which, incidentally, opposed the blanket clemency he granted on his last day in office, so keep that in mind when reading the story—it is not a model of journalistic neutrality).
  • The indictment itself (PDF, 242kb), which seems somewhat—but not excessively—excessive. Really, now: income tax evasion for a practice committed (intentionally or inadvertantly) by at least half the elected officials in this country who even have campaign funds? Or is this perhaps just the Chicago tradition of using the Infernal Revenue Service to ensure jail time for miscreants, like Al Capone?

I find one aspect of this case disturbing, but there may well be an innocent explanation for it: There is no statute of limitations problem or sentencing hearing of witnesses problem with waiting until after the holiday season for anything in the indictment. It seems to me that the timing of the announcement is a bit of grandstanding, as there are a couple of other matters in the Federal courts in Chicago that will probably break in the next few days that may well place the US Attorney's office in a negative light. There may well be an innocent explanation such as ensuring that the indictment was returned within a certain amount of time after the grand jury met. Ordinarily, however, public figures are accorded the courtesy this close to the holidays of waiting until after the New Year—unless there is personal animosity or a pressing legal reason to indict during the holiday season.

As I said, there may well be an innocent explanation, but that would not be normal in Chicago politics. I would be unsurprised to find out that ultimately, this timing was driven by far-right Republicans (locally or nationally) anxious to punish Ryan for betraying their vision of appropriate criminal punishment for the innocent dregs of society convicted killers who populated on Death Row. Perhaps Governor Ryan no longer tinkers with the machinery of death; but the timing of the indictment suggests that the machinery of death perhaps continues to tinker with him.

None of which is to excuse corruption in public office. That may be the official state sport, but then I despise the so-called "national pasttime" as a Communist conspiracy to sap the physical fitness of American youth and prevent understanding of true teamwork, so there.