Orland Park Man Who Played Major Role in Bringing Down George Ryan Died
Those who knew Russell Sonneveld said he didn’t want people to remember him as a whistleblower, though his determination helped expose deeds that led to former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s imprisonment, according to SunTimes Media.
Russell Sonneveld was working in the Illinois Inspector General’s Office when he became suspicious that a man named Ricardo Guzman shouldn’t have had a commercial driver’s license.
In 1994, a tail light assembly fell off the truck Guzman was driving on I-94 near Milwaukee that later caused an accident with a van wherein Duane and Janet Willis, along with their six children, were riding. The couple escaped; their children died.
Guzman didn’t speak English, and the woman who submitted his driver’s application was suspected of accepting bribes for licenses, according to a SunTimes Media report by Dave McKinney.
Sonneveld, a former police officer, brought his suspicion to Dean Bauer, the state’s inspector general at the time, but was ordered to shut down the investigation, according to the report.
Sonneveld, along with his partner Ed Hammer, then notified the U.S. Attorney’s Office, leading to a massive exposing of cover ups resulting in over 75 convictions, including Ryan.
Sonneveld, 63, of Orland Park died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
“I believe that if it wasn’t for Russ’ persistence that the case of George Ryan would have never gone anywhere and that the obstruction of justice Russ and I reported to the U.S. attorney’s office was the beginning of the case,” Hammer said to McKinney.