Thursday, December 18, 2003

Jail Time Doesn't Bring Dead Kids Back

Ex-Illinois Guv George Ryan was indicted yesterday on being a major political crook. Good. This schmuck, who I voted for in 1998, deserves to be locked up. But what I didn;t know in 1998 needs to be remebered now. John Kass does a nice summary in the Trib today:
Nov. 8, 1994, was Election Day. Scott and Janet Willis voted for George Ryan for a second term as Illinois secretary of state. Then the Willis family got in their van and drove toward Milwaukee.

A truck was on the highway in front of them. The driver, Ricardo Guzman, had paid bribes to Ryan's office for his commercial truck driver's license.

Guzman couldn't understand the warnings of other truckers that a large chunk of metal--the taillight assembly--was about to fall off his truck.

If Guzman hadn't paid the bribe, he wouldn't have been there on the road, in front of the Willis family, with the dangling taillight assembly.

It fell on the highway. The Willis van ran over it, and its gas tank ruptured. The Willis children were burned to death. Scott and Janet survived.

Later, Ryan insisted that Guzman never paid a bribe. But federal prosecutors alleged that Ryan participated in the cover-up inside his office by approving the transfer of secretary of state inspectors investigating the kinky Ryan political fundraising in what would later be known as the licenses-for-bribes scandal.

With the help of the combine, and the billions of dollars' worth of deals he promised, Ryan was elected governor on a lie in 1998.

This corruption comes with a body count.

And you could measure it by the angels hanging on Scott and Janet's Christmas tree.

"After the accident, so many people sent sets of six angels to us," Janet said. "And so we put six on the tree for the children. And there are other ornaments, too, you know, that the children made."

There were paper chains, angels, a tiny paper airplane. And there was a tiny wise man, one of those who followed the star to Bethlehem. The tiny wise man had a red robe, and a crown, and small features painted by a child's hand.

She reached toward it and touched it once with her finger. It swayed slightly.

"This is Ben's king," Janet said. "Ben made this king."

Ben was 13. Joe was 11. Sam was 9. Hank was 7. Elizabeth was 3, and Peter was 6 weeks old.

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