Sunday, December 07, 2008

President Bush: Please Do Not Release George Ryan

I h ave always had a lot of respect for President Bush, even when I have disagreed with him on policy because I have felt that he is a good man doing what he thinks is right. I sincerely hope that he will not pardon George Ryan. I know the big shots in Illinois want him out such as Durbin and Blagojevich. That's the one thing about Illinois its less about Democrat and Republican, they all play in one big corrupt party.

John Kass has written about this several times in the past week or two. George Ryan's corruption didn't just enrich himself, it had very real effects on the people of Illinois, and most notably the Willis family. The Willis' lost 6 children in an accident, an accident that should not have happened because the driver of the truck who dropped the hunk of metal that pierced the gas tank of the Willis van should not have had his commercial license. We all know there is corruption in Illinois, but this time corruption had a price tag of 6 children who burned to death.

As I said Kass has been writing on this the past week or two, and I'm glad he has. As Blagojevich and Durbin try to make us feel bad for George Ryan, Kass reminds us of the pain felt by a family, victims of Ryan's corruption. I have some of the articles posted here. Today he has not written a normal column, but instead published a letter from Janet Willis. Here is the column.

Heartfelt words put Ryan release in context

John Kass
December 7, 2008

The Illinois Combine is pushing hard to have President George W. Bush release corrupt former Republican Gov. George Ryan from prison, though he's served only a little more than a year of his 6 ½-year sentence on corruption, fraud and other charges.

Sen. Dick Durbin has written Bush a heartbreaking letter on Ryan's behalf. Durbin's Democratic Senate colleague—now President-elect Barack Obama—doesn't think it appropriate to get involved in the matter.

But you can get involved. This time, you can act.

You can e-mail Bush at, or write him at The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500.

You might consider including this letter from Janet Willis to U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer at Ryan's sentencing in 2006. I published it then, but it's time to read it again. Janet's children were the casualties of political corruption. You may also go online and read all the Willis family letters to Pallmeyer at Here is Mrs. Willis' letter:

On Nov. 8, 1994, I voted to re-elect George Ryan as secretary of state to be in charge of road safety. I am a mother. I loved my children, home-schooled them and, with God's help, poured my heart into trying to be the best mother I could be. We were very close. A few hours after that vote was cast, I watched as my children were trapped in an inferno. I have had to ask God to help me to forget the sights and thoughts of that day and all that occurred. However, I think now maybe for this one time, if I would be willing to share some things, it might down the road benefit others.

That day I thought [death] was instant for the little ones in the back. It wasn't. An accident report delivered to our home some weeks later related that there was some evidence of a struggle. Months later, the fire chief who was at the scene told me as gently as he could, "In this type of case it's never really instant."

As the weeks and months passed, little by little other pieces of information about that day have come our way unbidden. One of the first persons on the scene happened to be the brother of the boyfriend of my husband's best friend's daughter. He related to me that he ran from his car and saw our 13-year-old son, Ben, climbing out of the van right after me, his clothes aflame. He ran in a panic, but this man ran after him yelling, "Stop, drop and roll!" He caught up with him and grabbed his hand, yanking him to the ground. Ben then began to roll.

I saw my son moments later lying on the street as people tried to help him. He hardly looked like my Ben. His hair and eyebrows were gone, his burned lips made it hard for him to talk. But I was grateful to be able to talk with him, a brief sentence or two. He asked about the others, then said, "My feet are hot." People were trying to quickly but gently pull off the remaining burned clothes. One man asked me if I would mind if he put his T-shirt over Ben's body. He had moistened it with a water bottle. As I stood there, I suddenly was aware of searing, blinding pain in my burned hands; I could not imagine what my son who was burned over much of his body was going through. Ben was put into a helicopter and the paramedic later told me our son was relatively calm and lost consciousness before landing.

Over a year later, I found out that Ben was very much alert in the emergency room. I had the opportunity to talk to the attendant who was at his side. In pediatric cases, she was in charge of simply being an emotional support to young patients who had no parent available. She told me, "I believe he knew he was dying. He asked me to pray with him. He asked if someone would hold his hand; I couldn't because of his burns."

I feel it is my obligation, on behalf of my children, to make these facts known to the court and to Mr. Ryan. Here was a violent end to a violation of the public trust.

In the years since, both my husband and I have struggled with depression. While my husband battled thoughts of suicide, I battled to keep my sanity. My parents have also had their battles. My mother taught the four boys piano, so we went to their house twice a week. She has battled depression ever since the accident.

My husband and I have prayed and asked God to keep us from bitterness and to help us be faithful to him and he has. We tried to honor God by not complaining.

But there is a time to speak. I am sharing these facts only because I believe if justice rules, wrongdoing will be deterred. I have learned "when [God's] judgments come upon the Earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil." (Isaiah 26:9, 10)

That Election Day, in 1994, I was unaware that in 1993, dishonest and unsafe procedures in driver's licensing facilities had been reported. I was unaware that in spite of some investigations into those activities, Mr. Ryan had allowed illegalities to continue. I was unaware that Mr. Ryan had his sight on the governor's seat and was using these activities to build his campaign funds.

Incredibly, even after our accident, he permitted the fundraising scheme to continue. But I was fully aware of these things when Mr. Ryan ran for governor and won. It was extremely hard at that point not knowing whether justice would be served.

Although we are very grateful for the prosecution of Mr. Ryan, it must be said that he made our heavy grief even heavier. This has affected our whole family: a great-grandmother, three grandparents, three older siblings, our grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Many of us have had to see our burned-out van on TV repeatedly over the past 12 years. Had there been an admission of guilt from Mr. Ryan right from the start, the air would have been cleared. All of us have waited patiently for justice.

Respectfully submitted,

Janet Willis


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About Me

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Catholic and politically conservative, I graduated with a BA in History (concentration in American) and Political Science. I'm between two parishes; one in Wisconsin that is fairly traditional, and one in Illinois that is fairly liberal. I teach CCD. I work in the food service industry, which basically means I'm working in fast food until I find a better job. I'd like to work for the church somehow. Right now I'm working on getting my teaching certification, although I'm unsure thats the correct path for me. This blog is as random as I am. I hope you enjoy.