Ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan released from prison, 4 of Illinois' last 7 governors went to prison

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was released from federal prison and into a Chicago halfway house Wednesday after serving more than five years for corruption.

His departure follows a rich, if ignominious, history in Illinois of ex-governors arriving in and departing from prison.

Of Illinois' last seven governors, four have ended up going to prison. They are:

—Rod Blagojevich — Governor from 2002 through 2009, when he became the first Illinois governor in history to be impeached. Convicted of numerous corruption charges in 2011, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. He is currently serving his sentence in Colorado.

— George Ryan — Governor from 1999 through 2003. After leaving office, was convicted of racketeering for actions as governor and secretary of state. In November 2007, began serving a 6 1/2 year sentence in federal prison.

— Dan Walker — Governor from 1973-1977. Pleaded guilty to bank fraud and other charges in 1987 related to his business activities after leaving office. Spent about a year and a half in federal prison.

— Otto Kerner — Governor from 1961-1968. Resigned to become judge, then was convicted of bribery related to his tenure as governor. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Ryan, 78, left the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., five months before his prison term officially ended, having qualified for early release to a halfway house.

He was accompanied on the ride from the prison by his attorney, another former governor, Jim Thompson, who said Ryan talked during the journey about how good it felt to be out.

"He's in decent spirits. It is such a stark change from penitentiary life he has to become accustomed again to being on the outside," Thompson said.

A jury convicted Ryan in 2006 of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Jurors found that Ryan had steered state business to insiders as secretary of state and then as governor for vacations and gifts. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes for truck driver's licenses.

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