Lead Stories

Corruption and providence

"Corruption and providence" Continued...

That Election Day, in 1994, I was unaware that in 1993, dishonest and unsafe procedures in driver's licensing facilities had been reported. I was unaware that in spite of some investigations into those activities, Mr. Ryan had allowed illegalities to continue. I was unaware that Mr. Ryan had his sight on the governor's seat and was using these activities to build his campaign funds.

Incredibly, even after our accident, he permitted the fundraising scheme to continue. But I was fully aware of these things when Mr. Ryan ran for governor and won. It was extremely hard at that point not knowing whether justice would be served.

Although we are very grateful for the prosecution of Mr. Ryan, it must be said that he made our heavy grief even heavier. This has affected our whole family: a great-grandmother, three grandparents, three older siblings, our grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. Many of us have had to see our burned-out van on TV repeatedly over the past 12 years. Had there been an admission of guilt from Mr. Ryan, right from the start, the air would have been cleared. All of us have waited patiently for justice.

Respectfully submitted,
Janet Willis

- - - - - -

Gov. George Ryan is a father and a husband. He seems to have a close, loving family. My wife Janet and I are aware of his years of public service for the State of Illinois. Because of this, it makes the issues of this case so difficult.

First, six young children from Illinois are killed in a fiery explosion in Wisconsin caused by a mud-flap assembly [falling] off an Illinois truck driven by an Illinois Commercial Drivers Licensed driver. These deaths would strongly necessitate an investigation by the Illinois Department of the Secretary of State, overseer of public safety on the roads. Besides discovering why the accident happened and who might have caused it, the investigation could have provided insight [on] how to prevent similar future tragedies. When attempts to investigate were made, they were ignored, then suppressed.

Eventually evidence was uncovered pointing toward buying fundraising tickets for Secretary of State Ryan in exchange for CDL licenses. The driver had received his license illegally and was unqualified to drive a truck on the road. Warnings from other truck drivers about the piece of metal dangling went unheeded. The driver could not understand English. Thus, six children were innocent victims resulting from a political scheme to raise campaign money. Now a decision had to be made. Either allow the truth to come out giving understanding and justice for the children's deaths, or cover it up to protect the scheme and the one who benefited from the money.

What was required was a person of integrity and compassion to champion justice for the six children. The secretary of state, George Ryan, should have been the one to take that responsibility. Because it was his campaign that benefited, it would have been the mark of a compassionate and honest man to admit the truth. But under his watch, the investigation was suppressed to protect him, even to the closing down of the inspector general's office so no one could look further.

Our family's unanswered questions compelled us to look to other options to bring to light the facts surrounding the accident and its follow-up. [Attorney] Joseph Power pursued the investigation and uncovered the facts, and, it should be noted, took great abuse publicly from Mr. Ryan for doing so.

Secondly, Gov. Ryan must have understood as a father what the loss of six young, innocent children meant to Janet and me, yet no personal contact or written contact concerning the accident was ever made. Instead the investigation was terminated and suppressed, and our efforts to investigate were criticized.

Because he was the secretary of state and because of the massive publicity following the accident, he cannot claim ignorance. Thus he bears the ultimate responsibility in the suppression of the investigation.

How could this happen? How could a man, a father, a public servant allow this? What was done was a crime, according to the rule of this court. But the question remains as to the motivation. [Ryan defense attorney Dan Webb] correctly answered this: "It was politics." Thus, decisions concerning life and death were not decided on principle but on politics.

Janet and I are ordinary people. Not powerful, not forceful. Our children brought great joy to us. Benjamin, Joseph, Samuel, Hank, Elizabeth and Peter were like anybody else's kids: playful, happy, mopey, energetic. The boys loved reading and sports. Elizabeth was her mom's shadow and her doll's mom. We love them. We miss them. We do not despair. We live with a God-promised hope in Jesus Christ.

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