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Ryan sentenced to more than six years in prison

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(Reuters file photo)

By AP/KWMU

Chicago, Ill. – A judge Wednesday sentenced former Governor George Ryan to six and a half years in prison, following his April conviction on racketeering and fraud charges.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 8-10 years.

Defense attorneys argued before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer that even a sentence of up to 30 months could deprive the 72-year-old Ryan of the last healthy years of his life.

A jury convicted Ryan in April of racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and other corruption-related offenses while he was secretary of state from 1991 to 1999 and while he was governor for four years after that. When he was indicted, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald noted "essentially, the state of Illinois was for sale."

Ryan must turn himself in to begin his prison term on January Fourth.

Pallmeyer also ordered the ex-governor to pay more than $600,000 in restitution for money the state lost through overpriced leases Ryan was convicted of steering to political insiders.

Whether Ryan will pay the money remains unclear because his attorneys say he's broke.

It's also unclear whether he'll actually begin serving his term in January. His lawyers are trying to keep him free on bond pending appeal. Pallmeyer says she'll decide that matter later.

The guilty verdict capped the state's biggest political corruption trial in decades.

Minutes before his sentencing, Ryan apologized to the people of Illinois.

Speaking in the packed Chicago courtroom, Ryan said he realized there had been a loss of faith in government and that he'd let Illinoisans down. Ryan said -- quote -- "For that, I apologize."

To hear a report from NPRs Cheryl Corley, as aired on Morning Edition on Thursday, click here.

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