CHICAGO (AP) — Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was released from home confinement Wednesday — one day earlier than planned — ending more than 5½ years in federal custody for wide-ranging corruption offenses.
The 79-year-old was in federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., for most of that time, and in January was moved to home confinement at his residence in Kankakee, about 60 miles south of Chicago. For months, he was only allowed to leave for events such as doctor's appointments or to attend church.
Ryan was released Wednesday morning, a day ahead of schedule because of the July Fourth holiday, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that one of the former governor's first acts as a free man was to head to a barber shop for a haircut.
"I feel wonderful. Freedom is a precious thing, and now I have mine," Ryan told newspaper.
Ryan was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in 2007, but his sentence was reduced for good behavior.
In visibly good spirits, Ryan arrived at a Chicago halfway house after 7 a.m. Wednesday to fill out the paperwork for his release, said Bob Ciulla, operations manager at the Salvation Army Residential Reentry Center who assisted the ex-governor. Ryan was well-organized, so it only took about 20 minutes to fill out and sign the required documents, Ciulla said.
"He was clearly happy to have this part of his life behind him," Ciulla said. "He is going forward with his life."
Wednesday didn't sever all of Ryan's ties with authorities, however.
He still will be subject to a year of supervision and must meet with a probation officer periodically, Ciulla said, although it's not clear how often or where.
The Republican was convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI in 2006. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes for truck driver's licenses.
Ryan was at the Terre Haute, Ind., prison just over five years and was released on Jan. 30, stopping briefly at the same Chicago halfway house before being allowed to go home and serve the rest of his sentence. Once he arrived in Kankakee for his home confinement, a grandchild handed him an urn that held the ashes of Ryan's wife, Lura Lynn, who died in 2011 while he was in prison, Ryan's lawyer and longtime friend, former Gov. Jim Thompson, said at the time.
Ryan drew national attention in 2003 when he deemed Illinois' capital punishment laws flawed and emptied death row. That reignited a nationwide debate and led the state to abolish its death penalty in 2011. Advocacy groups lobbying to end capital punishment nationwide tout Ryan and, in the past, some have talked about him possibly becoming a national spokesman for their cause.
Associated Press writer Jason Keyser also contributed to this report.
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