Attorneys say Ryan's wife, Lura Lynn, is very ill. They say Mrs. Ryan's condition brings urgency to their request for his release.
It comes as the judge considers a motion to throw out parts of Ryan's 2006 conviction.
George Ryan has been in prison for nearly 34 months. He's not yet to the halfway point of his six and a half year sentence, which was built, in part, on the legal concept that Ryan's corrupt behavior deprived the public of its intangible right to his honest service. That law has been redefined, and Ryan's lawyers think his sentence should be as well.
"George Ryan is now in prison serving time for something the United States Supreme Court has said is not a crime," said Dan Webb, attorney for George Ryan.
Ryan was convicted on 18 counts in his public corruption trial. Roughly half of those counts involved honest services.
The Supreme Court's ruling in late June declared the honest services law "unconstitutionally vague" and restricted its use in corruption cases. So Ryan's defense team, with former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb and former Governor Jim Thompson at the helm, is arguing that Ryan should be re-sentenced given the change in law.
"If he is re-sentenced, he's already served all the time in prison that would be called for based on the crimes that are still crimes and therefore we're hopeful at the end of the day that he'll be released on this motion," said Webb.
Part of that motion deals with the health of Lura Lynn Ryan, George Ryan's wife of 54 years. She suffers now from pulmonary fibrosis and related complications. An affidavit signed by her doctor says, "In my opinion Mrs. Ryan has one to three years to live." And the defense argues that's further reason for George Ryan's release from prison.
"I'm breathing right now as well as I can. But it's difficult...We do have hope and wonderful attorneys. We have hope...I miss him a great deal, I really do," said Lura Lynn Ryan with tears in her eyes.
On the honest services argument, prosecutors say that they "strongly and vociferously" disagree, and that the corruption counts and the time they call for still stand.
Ed Hammer agrees with that. He was an investigator in the secretary of state inspector general's office whose work helped expose the licenses for bribes scandal under Ryan.
"If the judge were to look at those particular charges, unrelated to the honest services, he could still end up serving out the six and a half year term, and I believe that's what the decision should be," said Hammer.
There were no decisions on the matterThursday. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer who presided over the Ryan trial set November 1 as a date for arguments from both sides.