Brian Jacob Church Defense Team Statement

We are disappointed that Judge Wilson sentenced the NATO 3 to additional time in prison, albeit far less that the State’s request for 14 years. Our client Brian Jacob Church should be released at the outside in 6 months.

It is quite disturbing that even after the jury resoundingly rejected all the terrorism charges the States Attorney in comparing the case to the Boston bombing continued to demonize the defendants and seek harsh sentences as if this were a terrorism case.

We continue to strongly believe that the entire “terrorism” prosecution was politically motivated by the States Attorney, Chicago Police and Mayor Emmanuel, in an effort to justify the obscene amount of resources and propaganda, including spying and infiltration, devoted to creating climate of fear leading up to the large non-violent protest against NATO. The terrorism arrests days before the large Sunday demonstration was an effort to intimidate the potential peaceful protesters and encourage the police to use unnecessary force against the people who demonstrated.

We think the opinion piece by Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun Times captures the sentiment of many people who followed the legal proceedings “But I will always believe the NATO 3 never posed as great a threat to the freedom of the people of Chicago as those who assigned police officers to infiltrate dissident political groups in search of potential “criminals”— and by those who chose to define those criminals as terrorists.

Oral Argument Set for Occupy Chicago Appeal

Today, we received word that the oral argument has been set for the Occupy Chicago Appeal.  The oral argument will be May 13, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. in the Appellate Courtroom, First District of Illinois, at 160 N. LaSalle, Chicago, IL.  The argument will be open to the public, although people need to show a state-issued ID in order to enter the building.

The case, City of Chicago v. Alexander, Tieg, etc. 1-12-2858 is in appellate court after a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled in favor of Occupy Chicago.  The case dates back to October of 2011, when approximately 300 activists associated with Occupy Chicago were arrested on two consecutive Saturdays for violating a City Municipal Ordinance mandating a curfew in all City parks.

Attorneys from People’s Law Office (PLO), along with other attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) represented those arrested.  Nearly 100 of the arrestees opted to challenge their arrests and the PLO and NLG attorneys drafted and filed a Motion to Dismiss the charges based on the First Amendment.  We argued that the Municipal Ordinance violated the Free Speech of those arrested.  We were ultimately successful and a judge found that the ordinance was unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the activists who were defendants.

For more about the case, read these two articles on this site:
Free Speech and the Criminalization of Occupy
Occupy Chicago Appeal will Review City Ordinance’s Limits on Free Speech

In addition, below are briefs from both the City of Chicago and the NLG attorneys representing Occupy Chicago defendants.

Documents from Occupy Chicago Appeal

City of Chicago’s Appeal Brief – May 8, 2013

Occupy Chicago Response Brief – September 30, 2013

City of Chicago’s Reply Brief - December 12, 2013


Documents from Trial Level Court

Decision Ruling in Favor of Occupy Chicago - September 27, 2012

Occupy Chicago Reply to City – February 10, 2012

Original Occupy Chicago Motion to Dismiss - November 4, 2011

Burge Torture Victims Deserve Reparations, Say Amnesty Int’l Protesters

THE LOOP — Hundreds of Amnesty International protesters rallied in Daley Plaza Friday to demand reparations for police torture victims of notorious Jon Burge, but the aldermen sponsoring a reparations ordinance were not among them.

About 200 protesters marched to Daley Plaza from the JW Marriott in the Loop, where Amnesty International USA is holding its annual general meeting this weekend. They carried banners bearing the names of the estimated 118 people tortured by Police Cmdr. Burge and his “midnight crew” from the ’70s into the ’80s. The city has paid Burge’s victims an estimated $57 million.

 G. Flint Taylor, of the People's Law Office, tells demonstrators, "This scandal will not end until all the men receive reparations for the torture."<br /><br />

Protesters chanted, “City Hall, we want justice.”

“This scandal will not end until all the men receive reparations for the torture,” said G. Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office, one of the leading attorneys in the torture cases.

“People power is gonna keep this issue alive,” added Darrell Cannon, a Burge torture victim.

Protesters backed the reparations ordinance sponsored last year by Aldermen Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) and Joe Moreno (1st). It calls for the city to issue a formal apology to victims and create a $20 million fund for compensation, including medical and psychological treatment as well as vocational training and City College education, and for the subject to be taught in Chicago Public Schools.

Yet Brookins and Moreno did not attend the rally.

“They were invited, but this was an Amnesty International, a people’s gathering,” Taylor said. “We know they’ll be with us when the ordinance is heard in the City Council.”

“Let’s say that maybe they had other affairs to attend to,” Cannon added. “We’ll continue to press on.”

Brookins said he was unaware of the rally, but welcomed the support.

“I think the more hands in this the better,” Brookins said. “I need every hand on deck.”

The proposed ordinance has been on the Finance Committee agenda over the last few months, but has been deferred when Brookins, the sponsoring alderman, didn’t show up. He has kept a low profile at City Hall since his chief of staff was charged with bribery in February following a federal sting.

 "People power is gonna keep this issue alive," said Burge torture victim Darrell Cannon.<br /><br />

“People power is gonna keep this issue alive,” said Burge torture victim Darrell Cannon.View Full Caption

DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Joey Mogul, of the People’s Law Office, said Brookins’ commitment had not flagged.

“So at this point we’re going full speed ahead,” she added. “We’re gathering support for this ordinance. We think it can be passed, should be passed and will be passed.”

Brookins said he expected the subject to be on the committee agenda before the May City Council meeting.

“Ald. Moreno and I are looking for a way to do this so that we don’t get the pushback from the rest of our colleagues,” Brookins added. “We know it’s gonna be difficult because the city is strapped … but we think it’s the right thing to do.”

Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven Hawkins said the group supports reparations, as they’re called for in the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by the United States. It forbids torture, but also establishes “what obligations governments owe victims of torture,” Hawkins added. “So our position here is that, yes, the city owes these guys.”

This article was originally published in DNAinfo Chicago. By, Ted Cox on April 4, 2014 

Wrongful Conviction Suit Filed for Kristine Bunch

Kristine Bunch, falsely convicted files civil rights lawsuit in Indiana

People’s Law Office has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Kristine Bunch, who was falsely convicted in 1996 of the arson murder of her three-year-old son.  Kristine was the victim of junk arson “science” in which fire investigators made unsubstantiated and unscientific claims that fires were arson, when in fact they were entirely accidental.  In Kristine’s case, when the investigators found evidence that the fire was not intentionally set, they deliberately suppressed those findings and rewrote their report to hide the exculpatory information.

Kristine’s case was tragic from the outset.  A young single mother, she lived in a mobile home in southern Indiana with her beloved three-year-old Anthony.  Early in the morning of June 30, 1995, fire roared through her home.  Although she tried to rescue Anthony, who was sleeping in a separate room, the fierce flames drove her back and she was unable to reach him.  Devastated, she tried to assist investigators to determine what had caused the fire, but, in the words of the lawsuit, these investigators “wrongfully lept to the conclusion that she had intentionally set the fire and then proceeded to fabricate evidence that supported, and hide evidence that undermined, that incorrect conclusion.  Years later it was revealed that the evidence which caused Plaintiff’s conviction was fabricated and unreliable and that these Defendants had deliberately suppressed evidence which showed that the fire was not arson, but was in fact accidental.”

Although there was no motive for Kristy to kill her son- she was a devoted mother who loved to care for and play with Anthony- that did not stop investigators.  After leaping to their deeply flawed conclusion, the investigators destroyed the likely cause of the fire- faulty wiring which had previously caused multiple electrical problems in the home.  The Indiana investigators identified what they claimed were “pour patterns,” where fire accelerants had supposedly been poured, and sent this evidence to federal investigators, telling them to find the chemical residue of such accelerants.  When the federal agency found that there were no traces of accelerants in the areas where there were allegedly “pour patterns,” the state and federal authorities changed the report to falsely claim that there were such traces.  Additionally, the investigators also falsely claim that there were such traces.  Additionally, the investigators also falsified the report by failing to reveal that all the chemical residues that were found in the home were consistent with kerosne, which was caused by the use of a kerosene heater in the home for several years.

As a result of the suppression of the exculpatory portions of the report, Kristy was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison.  After several years of incarceration her case was investigated by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law.  During this investigation, the Clinic discovered the suppressed reports of the investigators, and was also able to establish that any conclusions that the fire was intentionally set were based on junk science, where arson investigators repeated opinions as to the origins of fires that had no basis in science.  In 2012, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Kristy’s conviction, finding that the State had violated her constitutional rights in suppressing the exculpatory reports and that if this evidence had been disclosed back in 1996 she would not have been convicted.

Kristine suffered mightily as the result of the wrongful prosecution and false conviction.  She was forced to give up custody of her new baby, born after the fire, and lived for 17 years in prison, knowing that she was innocent but, realistically might never be able to overturn the conviction and gain her release.  While this lawsuit can never regain the lost years of Kristy’s life, we intend to obtain compensation for those lost years and obtain redress against investigators who must be held accountable for their unsubstantiated opinions and their suppression of evidence.

Read the complaint in her civil rights lawsuit.

For news coverage of Kristine’s case:
Woman Gets New Trial in 1996 Murder, Arson Case  Indy Channel March 21, 2012
Woman Accused of Setting Fire That Killed Son to Get New Trial Indy Channel August 8, 2012
State Drops Charges in 1995 Fire That Resulted in Death of Son Indy Channel December 18, 2012

Read more about our work on this issue on the Wrongful Convictions page.

Settlement in Death of Hassiba Belbachir

for immediate release
April 4, 2014


On April 3, 2014, People’s Law Office attorneys obtained a seven-figure settlement for the family of Hassiba Belbachir, a vibrant 27 year old Algerian Muslim woman who died on March 17, 2005, abandoned and alone on the cold floor of a cell in immigration detention at McHenry County Jail.

A social worker at the jail who saw Hassiba on March 14, three days before she died, noted that she was suicidal; had a “major depressive disorder;” sobbed throughout the interview; was very depressed; experienced feelings of agitation, anger, anxiety, depression, hopelessness and helplessness; and believed she was dying, telling the social worker, “death is dripping slowly, drop by drop . . . I’d rather die than live like this.” The social worker deliberately ignored Hassiba’s desperate pleas for help, had no further contact with her, and didn’t bother to tell corrections officers that Hassiba was suicidal. On March 17, Hassiba wrapped her socks around her neck and took her own life.

In ruling that the social worker must stand trial for violating Hassiba’s civil rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals stated:

She was not a criminal and was no danger to any person in the jail, whether staff member, detainee, or visitor. She was an obvious suicide risk who should have been hospitalized or at least placed on suicide watch, during which a guard would have glanced into her cell every 10 minutes. [...]

The defendants could have placed Belbachir in a mental hospital or at least on suicide watch. These were simple and obvious precautions against a risk of suicide. A severely depressed person who has hallucinations, acute anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and who cries continually, talks incessantly of death, and is diagnosed as suicidal, is in obvious danger, and if the danger (known to a defendant) can be averted at slight cost, the failure to try to avert it is willful.

Belbachir v. County of McHenry, 726 F.3d 975 (7th Cir. 2013). [Audio of the June 6, 2013 oral argument is available at:]

Hassiba is survived by her six older siblings, who describe her as having a personality full of joy, that she was like a candle who could light up an entire room. Her brother Mohammed, a veterinarian in France, compared the effect of her death on the family with the destruction of the earth from a meteorite.

It is important to place Ms. Belbachir’s tragic and untimely death in the context of the expansion of immigration detention which routinely violates the human and civil rights of detainees, while it is seen as a profitable business by jail administrators. Her death in 2005 took place on the eve of the opening of a large unit to house ICE detainees in McHenry County, funded with more than $6 million in federal tax dollars. By 2009, by the sheriff’s own admission, renting jail cells to ICE netted the county some $55 million.

Between 2003 and 2013, at least 141 ICE detainees died in custody. While it is impossible to determine the number who took their own lives — Hassiba’s death is listed as an asphyxia — she is clearly one of at least 17 similar deaths in that ten year period.

Attorney Janine Hoft said, “This substantial settlement honors the memory of Hassiba Belbachir and reinforces the necessity to treat all persons in custody with dignity, respect and adequate care. Detainees caught up in our confusing, arbitrary and broken immigration system deserve humane treatment. No one else should die of desperation in our prisons, jails or immigration detention centers.”


Rachid Belbachir, her cousin, active in Chicago’s Muslim community, who administers her estate, said, “as a member of the family and Chicago’s Muslim community, I am satisfied that justice for Hassiba is at long last achieved. We hope and pray that the social worker, those who employed her, and those who work at the jail have learned a lesson such that no other immigration detainee will ever have to suffer from having his or her serious needs ignored, and such that no other family will ever have to suffer the loss of a loved one in immigration custody.”

Janine Hoft or Jan Susler 773 235 0070

PLO Files Koschman Civil Rights Case

PLO lawyer G. Flint Taylor and MacCarthur Justice Center lawyer Locke Boweman today filed a ten Count, 44 page Complaint on behalf of Nanci Koschman, whose son was killed nearly 10 years ago by Richard J. Vanecko, who is the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Complaint names as defendants Vanecko, several as of yet unidentified Daley family members, and 25 Chicago police and Cook County prosecutors, including former Chicago Police Superintendents Phil Cline and Jody Weis, former State’s Attorney Richard Devine, and current State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, in a continuing cover-up conspiracy that was designed to deny Mrs. Koschman of her Constitutional rights and to protect the Daley family from criminal prosecution, civil liability, and political embarrassment.

To read more about the case follow these links:

March/April 2014 Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report.

Legal Victory for Incarcerated Burge Torture Survivors

A Giant Step Towards Justice for the Burge Torture Survivors Who Continue to Languish Behind Bars

In an historic decision on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Cook County Circuit Court Chief of the Criminal Division Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. ruled that all of the Burge torture survivors who remain incarcerated are entitled to pro bono representation in post-conviction proceedings, allowing them the opportunity to challenge the validity of their convictions. Judge Biebel also appointed Loyola Law School Dean David Yellen as a special master to work with attorneys from the People’s Law Office (PLO) and the MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) to identify all Burge torture survivors who remain incarcerated, and inform them of the availability of attorneys to represent them for free in post-conviction proceedings. This ruling affirms that the torture survivors have the right to a full and fair opportunity to present allegations that they were tortured, and effective legal representation in challenging their convictions on this basis.

It is a giant step forward on the path to justice for the Burge torture survivors who are still behind bars, as many of them do not have lawyers to represent them and have been denied a full and fair opportunity have their day in court to present evidence of the torture they endured.

The decision was in response to a class action petition filed by the PLO and MJC in October 2012, on behalf of Johnnie Plummer, Vincent Wade and all other Burge torture survivors who continue to languish behind bars. The petition argued that comprehensive relief, including new evidentiary hearings, must be afforded to incarcerated individuals who claim they were tortured or abused under Burge’s command at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters. Such comprehensive relief has been provided in other cities and counties throughout the country where systemic police misconduct and corruption has raised questions about scores of criminal convictions, including in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tulia, Texas, West Virginia and the Ramparts scandal in Los Angeles.

There is no credible dispute that Burge and the detectives under his command routinely and systematically engaged in acts of torture. Yet many of the survivors of such torture remain behind bars and have been routinely denied the opportunity to present newly discovered evidence of systemic torture by Burge and his men. At the time of their original trials, these torture survivors challenged their coerced confessions, but they did not have access to the wealth of evidence that has since been uncovered documenting Burge’s reign of torture and abuse.

In his ruling, Judge Biebel noted that Burge’s conduct “has caused irreparable harm to many persons,” and that “it is of the highest importance that these remaining possible Burge-related cases be given resolution.” He further noted that Special Prosecutors appointed in 2002 concluded there was a pattern of misconduct that occurred with Burge and his associates. Thus, the alleged Burge victims who remain behind bars are both entitled to be identified and to be appointed representation because they have never had an opportunity to present claims that their confessions were coerced “with the benefit of substantial evidence now available to implicate Burge and those who worked under him.” When announcing his ruling from the bench, in front of a courtroom filled with attorneys, activists, and family members of the torture survivors, Judge Biebel also noted this was an “important endeavor” that was essential to bring to “a close an unfortunate chapter.”

Thus, all the individuals who can show:

1) His or her conviction was based in part upon a confession;

2) That the confession was the end result of an interrogation in which Burge or officers under his chain of command or direct supervision participated;

3) That her or she made an allegation of coercion in the context of his or her original proceedings, either at a motion to suppress or in some other clear and definitive way, that his or her confession was the product of physical abuse or torture, and those objections were overruled;

4) He or she remains incarcerated today; and

5) He or she has never had that the opportunity to present his or her claim of coerced confession with the benefit of the substantial evidence now available to implicate Burge and those who worked under him;

are entitled appointment of pro bono lawyers to represent them in post-conviction petitions.

Although he declined to certify a class of individuals entitled to relief or to automatically grant class members an evidentiary hearing, Judge Biebel assured a legal avenue for incarcerated torture survivors to challenge the coerced confessions that led to their convictions.

You can read Chief Judge Paul Biebel’s decision here.

If someone you know may be incarcerated who meets this category of criteria listed above, please send your information to the People’s Law Office or the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center.

For nearly 30 years, People’s Law Office has fought for justice for the survivors of Chicago police torture in appeals, post-conviction proceedings, civil rights lawsuits and in working with community members to fight for justice outside of the courts. Currently, we are working with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project in advocating for reparations for the survivors of Chicago police torture. Please sign the petition supporting the Reparations Ordinance.


Closure Not an Option in David Koschman Case

By: G Flint Taylor

In the early morning hours of April 25, 2004, 21-year-old David Koschman and several of his suburban friends got into a verbal altercation on Chicago’s Division Street with a group of four drunken revelers. Koschman, 5’5″ and 125 pounds, got “mouthy” and a 6’3″, 230 pound ex-football player punched him in the face. Koschman, knocked unconscious, fell backward to the ground, where the back of his head crashed against the pavement. The ex-football player fled with one of his friends, while Koschman was rushed to the hospital where he remained unconscious in critical condition.

The ex-football player, it turns out, was RJ Vanecko, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was informed of the incident shortly after it occurred. Vanecko and his friends, who were also well connected to the ex-Mayor, were coming from a Daley family engagement party that was honoring Daley’s niece, Kathleen. An investigation was started, but shortly thereafter, the Commander and Lieutenant in charge of the investigation were informed that the unknown assailant might be the Mayor’s nephew. “Holy crap,” one of them exclaimed, and the investigation was stopped in its tracks.

David Koschman lay unconscious in the hospital, his mother at his side, for 12 days until his mother was compelled to make the agonizing decision to remove David from life support. His death was reclassified as a homicide, and the investigation was reactivated. Koschman’s friends were interviewed, and they accurately described the assailant as the biggest of the group. Vanecko’s friends and two bystanders were also interviewed, and Vanecko subsequently appeared at the police station with a high powered criminal defense lawyer retained by the ex-Mayor’s brother, and remained silent.

Despite possessing compelling evidence that Vanecko threw the killer punch, and that Koschman, while perhaps verbally combative, did not pose a physical threat, the CPD, with the concurrence of the head of the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Felony Review Unit, decided not to charge Vanecko. They based this decision, which was reviewed by Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine and his top assistants, on purported identification problems and a theory of self-defense. Police Superintendent Phil Cline announced the decision and its dubious basis to the media in late May of 2004.

The case lay dormant for almost seven years until three Chicago Sun Times reporters began their own investigation. In response, the Chicago Police Department reopened the investigation, only to again close it without charges less than two months later. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez defended the decision, but nonetheless decided to have the Illinois State Police do yet another investigation. After first accepting the assignment, the ISP quickly withdrew after it became known that its newly appointed director was in charge of the Chicago Police Detective Division at the time of the 2004 investigation, and had later worked for Alvarez at the State’s Attorneys’ Office.

The Sun Times reporters continued their investigation, and in November of 2011, lawyers representing Nanci Koschman moved for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. The case was assigned to Cook County Judge Michael Toomin, and State’s Attorney Alvarez vigorously opposed the motion, arguing once again that the evidence did not support charges against Vanecko. In April of 2012, Judge Toomin rejected Alvarez’ arguments, finding that the self defense rationale was constructed by the police and prosecutors “from whole cloth.” Judge Toomin appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to conduct the investigation to determine “(1) whether criminal charges should be brought against any person in connection with the homicide of David Koschman in the spring of 2004, and (2) whether, from 2004 to the present, employees of the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office acted intentionally to suppress and conceal evidence, furnish false evidence, and generally impede the investigation into Mr. Koschman’s death.”

Webb and his staff from the Chicago law firm of Winston and Strawn then empaneled a special grand jury and conducted a 17-month investigation during which they examined 300,000 pages of documents and obtained evidence from 146 witnesses. Twenty-four of the witnesses testified before the grand jury, 10 of whom asserted their Fifth Amendment rights and were given use immunity. On December 3, 2012, the special grand jury indicted Vanecko for involuntary manslaughter, and, on September 18, 2013, Webb tendered a 162 page report to Judge Toomin which detailed the evidence that the Jury had developed during its investigation. Upon its tender, Webb publicly announced that his office had not sought additional indictments because:

(1) any prosecution as to actions taken by Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) or the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (“SAO”) personnel in 2004 are barred because of the three-year statute of limitations period, which was not otherwise extended under applicable state criminal law; (2) there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any violations of Illinois criminal law as to actions taken by CPD personnel in 2011; and (3) there is no evidence of any kind suggesting any violations of Illinois criminal law as to actions taken by SAO personnel in connection with its participation in the Koschman investigation in 2011 and 2012.

The Report was sealed pending the resolution of Vanecko’s prosecution, which was transferred for trial to a Judge from a neighboring county. On January 31, 2014Vanecko pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 60 additional days on home monitoring, and 30 months of probation. He also was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution and to make an apology to Nanci Koschman, which he did that day in open court.

On February 4, 2014, Webb publicly released the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s (OSP) report. Curiously, the press release that accompanied the Report only addressed one issue — whether the former Mayor or his family was directly involved in influencing the investigation:

[T]he OSP conducted a thorough investigation of whether former Mayor Richard M. Daley, his family, or others at their direction, engaged in conduct to influence or attempted to influence the investigations CPD and SAO conducted in connection with the Koschman matter. As part of the OSP’s investigation into that issue, the Special Prosecutor’s staff, among other things, interviewed former Mayor Daley and eight of his relatives as well as fourteen members of his 2004 and 2011/2012 mayoral staff and security detail. Further, the issue of whether the Daley family or others at their direction exercised undue political influence on the investigations was also extensively pursued by the Special Prosecutor throughout the course of his investigation, including during each OSP interview of CPD and SAO personnel and in the OSP’s review of documents received pursuant to the Special Grand Jury’s subpoenas. As a result of investigating this issue, the Special Prosecutor has concluded there was no evidence that former Mayor Daley, his family, or others at their direction engaged in conduct to influence or attempted to influence, the investigations which CPD and SAO conducted in connection with the Koschman matter.

The media reaction was both quick and varied. The Chicago Tribune seized upon the release, and its front page headline read: “Daley Didn’t Aid His Nephew,” while the Sun Times, whose reporters had doggedly pursued the story for years, ran a front page headline across Daley’s picture that stated “What He Knew and When.” Nanci Koschman’s lawyers also questioned the featured Daley findings, and one, paraphrasing the police commander upon hearing that a Daley relative was involved, declared: “In this city, then and now, you don’t need a phone call, you don’t need a memo. When it’s Daley, it’s ‘Holy crap, what do we do?’” Both papers also ran editorials that strongly condemned the police and the prosecutors, and the Tribune, picking up on the “holy crap” theme, entitled its editorial “Collateral Clout.”

Contained in the Webb Report and its more than 800 footnotes were the following findings:

    • Ranking officials in the police department, as well as former Mayor Daley and a top aide, had been briefed nearly two weeks before the lead detective claimed that he first learned of the involvement of the Mayor’s nephew.
    • Investigators who twice declined to press charges knew Vanecko was Daley’s nephew.
    • Evidence wasn’t documented, witnesses weren’t interviewed, reports were altered, and four separate Koschman police homicide files went missing, only to be “found” after the 2011 re-investigation was concluded.
    • The case was first assigned to two detectives who both began vacations two days later. During the two weeks they were gone, no witnesses were interviewed. Koschman, meanwhile, died of his injuries.
    • A police commander described this turn of events as follows: “Vanecko is a suspect, he’s related to Daley, the investigation stopped at some point.”
    • The head of the State’s Attorneys’ Felony Review Unit declined to approve charges, claiming self-defense and lack of identification. When he was later asked to locate his folder on the case, he first said he didn’t make one, then subsequently told the special grand jury that he must have thrown it away.
    • Although the police concluded that two of Vanecko’s friends, when interviewed by the investigators, had concealed Vanecko’s identity and had participated in a post event rendezvous with him at a tavern, they were not charged with obstruction of justice.
    • The Koschman case — per CPD order — remained open and ‘in progress’ from 2004 until 2011 although no investigative activity at all took place during this time, but the open designation gave the CPD the basis to deny a reporter’s 2004 FOIA request.
    • In early 2011 Daley staffers scrambled to do spin control after the Sun Times filed a FOIA request.
    • The CPD, which reopened its investigation in January of 2011 after the Sun Times request, reassured the Mayor’s Office that it would be closed shortly thereafter.
    • The quote, “Fuck you! I’ll kick your ass,” attributed to David Koschman, was inserted as a last-minute “correction” into a draft of the investigating detectives’ 2011 closing report by their commanding officers. The quote did not previously appear in any police reports or handwritten notes.
  • The Deputy Chief of Detectives emailed response to the 36-page corrected report read “very nicely done” and was approved at his direction six minutes after it was submitted.

Despite this evidence, the Report was extremely guarded in the conclusions it drew:

    • There was “limited evidence that was arguably consistent with a theory” that the detectives who re-investigated the case and certain CPD commanding officers “manufactured” the CPD’s 2011 “phony self-defense determination.”
    • “The public could well conclude that the entire claim of self-defense came not from Vanecko, who was never interviewed, but, rather, was conjured up in the minds of law enforcement. A discerning citizen could well surmise that it simply is an argument made of whole cloth.”
  • The State’s Attorneys’ Office “concur[ed] in what one might charitably characterize as a rather creative exercise of the police investigative processes.”

A few days after the report was released, a special grand juror contacted one of the Sun Times reporters and vented his frustration at the police and prosecutors, including the head of the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Felony Review Unit who decided not to charge Vanecko:

He’s sitting before us, saying that reasonable self-defense was warranted by Vanecko, whom he never interviewed… A 6’2″, 230-pound guy against a 5’5″, 125-pound guy. . . . Nobody in the room believed him. Most outrageous of anything I heard. Then, the fact that [he] threw away the felony review file on Koschman… We thought that was just amazing.

The juror also asserted that the questioning of Daley, which was read into the record, also left much to be desired:

It was brief, not illuminating at all. Didn’t really provide us any insider information, generic as it could be. Said he’d recused himself. Didn’t remember when he first learned about his nephew being involved.

Many unanswered questions still remain, and in the town that immortalized clout, the Sun Times, in a series of prominently displayed articles and columns, has continued to detail the evidence contained in the Report and ask hard questions aboutthe Daleys, the police, and the State’s Attorneys’ Office. Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the voluminous evidence developed during the OSP investigation will be released to the public, whether the U.S. Attorney and the FBI will conduct a serious investigation of its own, whether the SAO and the CPD will discipline any of their transgressors, and whether Nanci Koschman will sue the police and prosecutors for civil rights violations.

At this point, closure is not an option.

This article was originally published on March 17, 2014 on Huffington Post.

Illinois Court Rules Police Misconduct Complaints are Public

On March 10, 2014, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled in Jaime Kalven v. City of Chicago, 2014 IL App (1st) 121846 that police misconduct complaints and their investigations are public information and can no longer be kept secret by the Chicago Police Department.

In November 2009, the plaintiff, Jamie Kalven, an award winning journalist, made Freedom of Information Act requests to the Chicago Police Department, seeking two types of documents: (1) lists of Chicago police officers who accumulated the most police misconduct complaints in the entire City, commonly referred to as “repeater lists”; and (2) Complaint Register files, commonly referred to as “CRs,” related to the City’s completed factual investigations into allegations of official police misconduct against five officers charged with a pattern of abuse. After the City denied the requests, Mr. Kalven filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The central issue in the case was whether records relating to police misconduct are public information under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The Appellate Court’s rejection of the City’s arguments that the requested documents are exempt from disclosure under certain provisions of FOIA, is a watershed moment in the ongoing fight for police accountability and governmental transparency in Illinois.

Mr. Kalven is represented by a team of civil rights lawyers, including Ben Elson and Flint Taylor from People’s Law Office.  As part of our continued commitment to fighting against police brutality and misconduct, we recognize the importance of the public’s access to information regarding police abuse.

Illinois Appeals Court Ruling
Kalven v. City of Chicago, 2014 IL App (1st) 121846

Media coverage of the ruling

Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Tribune
CBS Chicago
Think Progress

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Illinois Attorney General Fights to Stop Jon Burge’s Pension Payments

By: G. Flint Taylor

In June 2010, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was sentenced to 4 1/2 yearsin prison for three torture-related felonies. But while Burge serves his time at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., he’s continued to collect his police pension—to the tune of some $36,000 a year. After his conviction, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, acting on behalf of the people of the state of Illinois, went to court in an attempt to stop that cash flow.

On Jan. 22, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in Madigan’s case, People v. Burge. The question argued before the court was whether Madigan had the power to challenge the continuing lifetime payments to Burge.

City, county, state and federal taxpayers have already footed a bill amounting to more than $100 million over the course of two decades to investigate, prosecute and defend Burge and his cronies—and to compensate some of his victims. Still, Burge’s lawyers,likely funded by the Fraternal Order of Police based on past behavior, argued that thepolice pension board’s 2011 decision to continue to pay him could not be challenged in court. (The FOP did not return requests for comment.)

The board’s original 4-4 decision was based on the proposition that Burge’s conviction for lying under oath about whether he tortured detainees did not relate to, arise out of, or connect to his work as a police officer. Given the notorious circumstances of Burge’s sentencing, this resolution fostered widespread outrage, particularly in the African-American community. Madigan filed suit less than a month later to halt the payments.

After Cook County Associate Judge Rita M. Novak dismissed the case, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned her decision. In doing so, the court noted that Burge was “widely believed to have sanctioned and participated in physical abuse and torture of arrestees in order to obtain confessions.” Burge and the pension board then sought review of the decision in the Illinois Supreme Court. This high court, which only agrees to review about one in 20 cases, nonetheless granted Burge and the board the right to appeal.

During the arguments on January 22, the arcane-sounding legal issues discussed by justices and lawyers were framed by overarching concerns about the pension board’s 2011 decision. Those questions included whether the board’s evenly split decision, voted for only by the four current or former police officers present, had been a legally binding one. Another was whether it could be reasonably concluded that Burge’s eventual conviction—lying in federal court about whether he participated in the serial torture of arrestees during his tenure as a police officer—was, in fact, unrelated to his police work. And a third was whether the taxpayers can challenge such a decision via Madigan, given that neither Burge nor the board had an interest in appealing it.

But there are other older, equally troubling questions that surround the saga. Burge was first suspended in 1991 for allegedly torturing Andrew Wilson in 1982. The police board fired him for this offense in 1993, and his appeals were exhausted in 1995, making the decision final. Nonetheless, in 1997, Burge started to quietly collect his pension.

After the court-appointed special prosecutor’s 2006 report found that Burge had tortured Wilson “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a furor arose about the former commander living comfortably in Florida on his police pension. That report also led to a widely publicized City Council torture hearing in the summer of 2007, during which Alderman Ed Smith said Chicago could no longer allow Burge “to live off the fat of this city.” Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times, in a banner editorial, urged Chicago to “PULL HIS PENSION.”

However, the Daley administration did nothing beyond funneling additional millions to defend Burge—and ultimately, Daley himself—in the civil cases brought by Burge’s exonerated victims in the following years.

The lingering doubts about Burge’s right to his pension were compounded in 2009, when former Chicago Police Superintendent LeRoy Martin testified at a deposition that, if Burge had been fired, he would have only been entitled to a lump sum payment of what he’d contributed to the superannuation fund over the course of his 21-year career, instead of lifetime checks supplemented by city funds. But contrary to the unambiguous decision of the police board and the reviewing courts, Martin then asserted that, in fact, the department had permitted Burge to retire, thereby protecting his right to collect his pension starting at age 50.

While this seems hard to fathom, Burge maintained in his 2010 trial that he’d retired in 1997 without mentioning his firing—testimony that went unchallenged by government prosecutors. And in 2011, the board opted to continue paying the pension Burge had begun to pocket more than ten years prior.

Attorney General Madigan’s current battle with Burge and his lawyers could go on for several years: If the Supreme Court deems that she has the legal right to challenge Burge’s payments, she’ll have to return to court again to do just that. To date, Mayor Emanuel’s lawyers have not joined forces with Madigan. And, like Daley before him, Emanuel has not spoken out on either side of the issue.

Burge, who rose in the ranks from patrolman to Commander in record time, has been said to have friends in high places. In an era where the Illinois Supreme Court and the legislature are potentially scaling back the hard-earned pensions of law-abiding public workers and their families, it will be telling to see, once again, just how high Burge’s clout reaches in this scandal-within-a-scandal.

This article was originally published on February 5, 2014 in In These Times.