Weather Updates

City settles Burge police torture case; Daley won’t have to testify

Mayor Rahm Emanuel former Chicago Police Commander JBurge. | Sun-Times files

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. | Sun-Times files

storyidforme: 33995275
tmspicid: 6027313
fileheaderid: 2824917
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: August 25, 2012 6:08AM

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley will not have to answer questions under oath about allegations that — as state’s attorney and as mayor — he failed to investigate torture allegations against convicted former Area 2 Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

Daley avoided the hot seat on Monday — with an assist from Mayor Rahm Emanuel — thanks to $7.17 million in settlements advanced by the City Council’s Finance Committee.

The new settlements bring to $53.6 million the amount of money local taxpayers have shelled out to defend Burge and his Area 2 co-horts, compensate victims of their alleged torture and pay a special prosecutor to investigate the controversy.

The largest of the two new pay-outs — for $5.37 million — will go to Michael Tillman, who spent 23 1/2 years in the penitentiary based on a tortured confession only to be declared innocent by the chief criminal court judge.

The lesser amount — $1.8 million —will go to David Fauntleroy, against whom charges in a 1983 double murder were dropped in January, 2009.

The Tillman case is the only one of the Burge cases in which Daley has been sued as a defendant and ordered to sit for a deposition.

Now that the case has been settled, Daley is off the hook.

“The former mayor has cooperated in all aspects of this case. He was prepared to give his deposition had that been necessary,” Jacquelyn Heard, the former Daley press secretary who still works with the former mayor at a Chicago law firm, wrote in a statement e-mailed to the news media.

“As for the claims that he knowingly allowed police torture to occur some 30 years ago, his response remains the same: It is simply not true.”

Tillman scoffed at the former mayor’s blanket denial. He said he’s sorry Daley won’t be questioned, “But, that does not change the fact that he did me and my family wrong” and also did wrong by “at least another 100 torture victims wrong” while serving as state’s attorney and mayor.

“If he had done what he should have, I would not have been tortured, lived with the fear of the death penalty or sent to prison,” Tillman said in a statement released by his attorney.

Civil rights attorney Flint Taylor, who represented Tillman, said he’s “disappointed” he won’t get to question Daley under oath.

But, he said, “I don’t think Daley is off the hook completely here. ... He remains a central figure in the torture scandal and potential witness in the remaining cases. ... The evidence that we would have confronted him about still remains, and that is there for all to see and for other lawyers in other cases to use. I don’t think Daley’s name will ever be removed from the pantheon of conspirators in the Burge torture cases.”

Burge was convicted in 2010 of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil court case when asked if he knew of the torture that went on under his watch. He is currently serving a four-and-a-half year sentence in federal prison.

In 2008, the City Council approved a $19.8 million settlement with four alleged torture victims. Five cases remain unsettled.

If top mayoral aides can settle those cases in a way that makes sense for Chicago taxpayers, they will, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton told aldermen Monday.

Patton acknowledged that Burge’s reign of terror represents a “dark chapter” in the history of the Chicago Police Department that has “undermined the level of trust” between African-Americans and police so essential to solving violent crime.

“These proposed settlements represent yet another step — an incremental one. We’re not all the way there — of putting this matter behind us,” Patton said.

Last summer, Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times he was trying settle outstanding police torture allegations against Burge because it was “time we end” one of the ugliest chapters in the history of the Chicago Police Department.

“We have a future to build — not a past to settle. ... .How old is this now — 30 years old? ... It is time we end it,” Emanuel said.

In 2006, a long-awaited special prosecutor’s report concluded that Burge and his Area 2 cohorts tortured criminal suspects for two decades while police brass looked the other way. But the report concluded that it’s too late to prosecute because the statute of limitations has long since run out.

Daley, who was state’s attorney during the 1980s, was faulted for failing to follow up on a 1982 letter from then Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek that strongly suggested abuse in the case of accused cop killer Andrew Wilson.

The now former mayor responded by accepting his share of responsibility for what he called “this shameful episode in our history.” But he categorically denied that he deliberately looked the other way.

“Do you think I would sit by, let anyone say that police brutality takes place, I know about it, that I had knowledge about it and I would allow it? Then you don’t know my public career. You don’t know what I stand for,” the mayor said.

Two years later, Daley changed his tune. Hours after Burge was arrested in Florida, Daley refused to accept even an ounce of responsibility and issued a sarcastic blanket apology to the alleged torture suspects.

“The best way is to say, ‘OK. I apologize to everybody [for] whatever happened to anybody in the city of Chicago.’ . . . So, I apologize to everybody. Whatever happened to them in the city of Chicago in the past, I apologize. I didn’t do it, but somebody else did it. Your editorial was bad. I apologize. Your article about the mayor, I apologize. I need an apology from you because you wrote a bad editorial,” Daley said, laughing.

“You do that, and everybody feels good. Fine. But I was not the mayor. I was not the police chief. I did not promote him. You know that. But you’ve never written that, and you’re afraid to. I understand.”

The mayor’s flippant tone infuriated plaintiff’s attorneys, prompting Heard to try to clarify Daley’s remarks.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.