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New Vanecko judge will stay on case, says, ‘I do not know anyone involved’

Richard J. 'R.J.' Vanecko left arrives Friday for his first court appearance before McHenry County Judge Maureen McIntyre Cook County's

Richard J. "R.J." Vanecko, left, arrives Friday for his first court appearance before McHenry County Judge Maureen McIntyre at Cook County's Rolling Meadows regional courthouse. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 18, 2013 12:03PM

The McHenry County judge chosen earlier this month to preside over the involuntary-manslaughter case of Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko held her first hearing in the case on Friday and wanted to make one thing clear.

“I do not know anyone involved,” McHenry County Circuit Judge Maureen P. McIntyre said. “My family does not know anyone involved.”

That prompted Vanecko attorney Terence Gillespie to joke, “You’d be the first one.”

McIntyre was picked to hear the case involving Vanecko, a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, after one Cook County judge stepped aside and the county’s chief judge, Timothy Evans, petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint an outsider.

Evans said the case shouldn’t be handled by a Cook County judge because of the potential for conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such conflicts. Many judges in Cook County have ties to the Daley family.

Arthur Hill Jr., who initially was given the case through random computerized selection, stepped aside. He had worked for Daley when Daley was Cook County state’s attorney.

Neither Vanecko’s lawyers nor special prosecutor Dan K. Webb’s team offered any objection to McIntyre remaining on the case.

Attorneys on Webb’s staff said Friday they have turned over 17,000 documents totaling 200,000 pages to Vanecko’s lawyers.

Vanecko, 38, is accused of knocking Koschman, 21, to the ground in a drunken confrontation April 25, 2004, on Division Street west of Dearborn. Both men had been out with friends.

The judge said she would continue to hold any pretrial hearings in the case at the same courthouse where Friday’s hearing took place — the Cook County regional courthouse in Rolling Meadows, which is the closest Cook County courthouse to McHenry County.

If the case goes to trial, McIntyre said the trial would be at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California, Cook County’s main criminal courthouse.

McIntyre did not set a trial date. She scheduled the next hearing in the case for May 14.

Vanecko and his attorneys left the courthouse without comment.

A grand jury indicted Vanecko on Dec. 3 following an investigation led by Webb. Webb, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed special prosecutor last April by Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin following a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that raised questions about the handling of the case.

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