By Terry Baynes
(Reuters) - Former Illinois Governor George Ryan lost a bid on Monday to cut short his 6-1/2 year prison sentence for corruption, with an appeals court rejecting arguments that prosecutors failed to prove he took bribes.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago affirmed the conviction and sentence, finding that Ryan failed to provide honest services to the people of Illinois who elected him, and that he violated this duty by giving state benefits to his friends.
"The benefits included free vacations, loans, gifts, campaign contributions, as well as lobbying money that Ryan assigned or directed to his buddies," Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel, quoting federal prosecutors.
Ryan, a Republican, was convicted in 2006 of racketeering, fraud and other offenses involving favoritism and kickbacks for state contracts and property leases.
On appeal, Ryan argued that the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in a case against former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling unsettled his conviction by changing the law that governs honest-services fraud. In that case, the high court found that honest-services fraud was limited to bribery and kickback schemes.
The 7th Circuit had affirmed Ryan's conviction in 2011, but the Supreme Court asked the appeals court to reconsider its ruling.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit on Monday again upheld Ryan's conviction and sentence, finding sufficient evidence of bribery.
"We think the court made some serious errors," said Ryan's lawyer, Albert Alschuler, who is considering whether to appeal to the full 7th Circuit or the Supreme Court.
Ryan has already served most of his sentence at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, and is scheduled to be released in July 2013, Alschuler said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ryan had been nominated several times for a Nobel Peace Prize because of his opposition to the death penalty. He imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois after 13 death row inmates were found to have been wrongly convicted. Illinois has since abolished the death penalty.
(Reporting By Terry Baynes in New York; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)