I-Team: George Ryan's restaurant outing not afforded to all under house arrest

February 19, 2013 4:23:23 PM PST
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was invoking his own probation benefit on Sunday when he dined at an Italian eatery in south suburban Frankfort and not operating under a blanket rule afforded to all ex-cons serving home confinement, according to U.S. criminal justice officials.

The top federal probation officer in charge of Chicago-area convicts said Tuesday that there is no general provision that allows prisoners confined to their homes to take weekend forays to restaurants or anywhere else.

Kristine Phillips, chief probation officer for the northern district of Illinois, said such arrangements may be made on a prisoner-by-prisoner basis.

On Monday evening the ABC7 I-Team reported that Ryan had been photographed by a patron of Francesca Fortunato. The restaurant is 31 miles from Ryan's home in Kankakee where he is under house arrest until his corruption sentence expires in 6 1/2 months.

Ryan's predecessor/attorney/spokesman, former Gov. James Thompson on Monday downplayed the outing.

Thompson said that Ryan was merely taking advantage of a probation department rule that allows all low-risk prisoners to go out in public on weekends. Thompson said that such home confinees are permitted out for a total of six hours on Saturday and Sunday plus two hours for church.

Chief Probation Officer Phillips says that there is no rule affording 6 hours of public outings and church service attendance to all prisoners but that such arrangements may made on a per-prisoner basis. She would not provide the terms of Ryan's home confinement and those details are not normally made public or in court records.

"Inmates on home confinement are granted permission to leave their home for a variety of purposes" Traci Billingsley, chief spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington, said.

"Information pertaining to individual requests by individual inmates are not a part of the public record and would not be available to you. For this reason I cannot confirm whether Mr. Ryan's reported absence from the home was authorized by the BOP," she said.