Former Ill. Gov. George Ryan apologizes

CHICAGO "I must say something that I have known in my heart has been a long time coming. And that is a truly heartfelt apology to the people of illinois. It has been a difficult journey for me to get to this point. As I truly believed in my service to the people. But it was less than my best. And I am sorry," said former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, reading from the written apology.

In the apology, George Ryan acknowledges his guilt, says it took him time to come to accept that, and that while he can't undo the past, Ryan says he hopes his remarks might helping in the healing process by restoring faith in government.

Significantly, for the first time publicly, he directly apologized to the Willis family for the loss of their six children.

"I know that Reverend and Mrs. Willis suffered such effects - an unimaginable pain and loss - and loss from mistakes made in my administration both by me and by others on my watch. My heart has and always will go out to the Willis family. They, like all the people of Illinois, deserved far better than I gave them," Ryan said in the apology.

Ryan's written request for a commutation of his sentence and Senator Dick Durbin's support of that was met with an overwhelming negative public reaction. So why wouldn't this apology be greeted with similar cynicism?

"You are free to read this with all the cynicism you want. If people do that, I hope they're not the same people who have been for the last year demanding an apology. And then receiving it are cynical about it," said Thompson.

Ryan has served about 14 months of a 6 1/2-year sentence. His bid for commutation is considered a long shot at best, and is now complicated by his successor's predicament.

The Willis family acknowledges the apology, but through their attorney, say it came too late.

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