Lefkow tells Burge he had a lack of respect, remorse
By Natasha Koreckiand Art Golab Staff Reporters
Jon Burge’s conviction was for perjury and obstruction of justice.
But U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow recognized that Burge’s mark on the city cut much deeper. In a wide-ranging statement Friday, Lefkow worked to crystallize an ugly period in Chicago’s history – one that a historian who testified at Burge’s two-day sentencing hearing called “singular,” “unprecedented” and known around the country.
She said she needed to punish Burge so that other police officers don’t lie on the stand and to send the message that freedom in this country means being free of being abused by those in power.
“When a confession is coerced, the truth of the confession is called into question,” she said.
Lefkow said Burge’s actions “demonstrates at the very least a lack of respect for the due process of law and your lack of remorse.”
Lefkow noted Burge could have evaded criminal charges had he invoked his right to remain silent and not answered that question on a civil suit interrogatory. But if a civil jury did not believe him, they can hold his silence against him.
She said she believed that’s why Burge did answer the question, triggering the statute of limitations, and eventually leading to his downfall. Burge didn’t want to risk losing the lawsuit, filed by freed Death Row inmate Madison Hobley, “bringing your house of cards down around you.” It would have exposed Burge’s “long history of misconduct,” and undermined his reputation with the department as a decorated cop, she said.
In a rare move, Lefkow brought up the 2005 murders of her husband and mother, saying she had first-hand knowledge of tough police work.
“As you know, I’m no stranger to violent crime,” Lefkow said.
“I fully trusted . . . and was not disappointed,” in their work, she said. “Respect is hardly a sufficient word,” for police officers who aided “my family in a time of crisis.”
Lefkow said she was largely persuaded by dozens of letters she received.
She told Burge that many lauded his work as a cop. She told him to treasure those.
“You acted heroically on many occasions,” she said. She acknowledged that it pained Burge that many African Americans believed Burge targeted them.
“I heard you and I believed that those hurt you,” she said.
She felt differently about another letter, one that: “will probably haunt me the longest,” she said.
It was penned by a prisoner who said he was 17 years old when he was tortured into confessing to a murder he said he didn’t commit and was sentenced to 30 years.
He wrote: “I had the body of a man but I was a child inside.”
Everyone lost faith in the boy but his grandmother and she died while he grew gray in prison. Said Lefkow: “Imagine the loss.”