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Burge victim Anthony Holmes made case for an ordinance mandating thcity establish $20 millifund compensate torture victims who couldn’t sue

Burge victim Anthony Holmes made the case for an ordinance mandating that the city establish a $20 million fund to compensate torture victims who couldn’t sue, either because of a city “cover-up” or because, as in Holmes’ case, the statute-of-limitations has run out. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

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Updated: November 18, 2013 7:42AM

Anthony Holmes spent 30 years in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit after being shocked and suffocated into making a false confession by now convicted Area 2 Commander Jon Burge.

His name has never been cleared. He was the first known victim to come forward and provided crucial testimony in the perjury and obstruction of justice trial that culminated in Burge’s 2010 conviction.

On Wednesday, Holmes made the case once again — this time for an ordinance mandating that the city establish a $20 million fund to compensate torture victims who couldn’t sue, either because of a city “cover-up” or because, as in Holmes’ case, the statute-of-limitations has run out.

“Reparations would help people like me and other guys coming out because, if you notice, every time somebody comes out after a long length of time, they end up back in the penitentiary,” said Holmes, 57, who has spent the last four years delivering newspapers.

Asked what he remembers about the Burge interrogation, Holmes said, “Everything. Putting the plastic bag over my head…Then, he went and got that…little black box and plugged it into the wall…. I felt the electricity. It put me out. For almost two days, I was getting shocked, electrocuted, suffocated. Don’t nobody come to my aid.”

He added, “He slapped me on the chest and said, `N-----, you’re gonna tell me what I want to know.’ I said, `Man, you’re talking crazy.’ He said, `You know about this murder.’ He asked me about 13 or 14 murders and I ain’t did none of `em….I was a gang member. I ain’t never gonna deny that. But what they say I did, I didn’t do. But if they had told me I killed the president, I would have said, `Yeah, I did that, too,’ ” just to stop the torture.

Flint Taylor, an attorney representing Burge victims, said the $20 million figure was not “pulled out of the air.” It’s equal to the amount Chicago taxpayers have spent to defend Burge, his co-horts and former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Three times, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to multi-million dollars settlements that spared Daley from answering questions under oath about allegations that — as state’s attorney and as mayor — he failed to investigate police torture allegations against Burge and participated in a conspiracy to cover it up.

The ordinance introduced Wednesday would serve as a formal apology to Burge “survivors.” But it would go far beyond the words uttered by Emanuel last month after the latest round of Burge settlements.

It would: create a commission to administer financial compensation to “at least 30 or 40” torture victims with no other financial redress; establish a South Side center to provide them with medical, psychological and vocational counseling; grant them free City Colleges tuition and require Chicago Public Schools to teach a history lesson about Burge’s reign of terror.

“We need this ordinance because there is unfinished business. Men who have been tortured and have no cases in court have not been properly compensated….Burge has a full pension and health care….These men have no health care and no jobs,” Taylor said.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus who introduced the ordinance, was asked how the cash-strapped city could afford to pay $20 million in reparations.

Brookins said aldermen could easily “figure out a revenue stream,” then suggested one: the windfall expected to be generated by speed cameras installed around schools and parks.

But Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, said a city struggling to bridge a $338.7 million budget gap is in no position to dole out $20 million in reparations to Burge torture victims.

“It’s a very unfortunate thing. But I just don’t think we can go to the taxpayers and say, voluntarily, you need to contribute to this because we think it’s a good idea when we’re going to be hitting them [up] for all sorts of money to balance the budget,” O’Connor said.

“Victims of Burge torture have had a significantly successful track record in getting money from the city and I don’t know that we should make it easier at a time when we don’t have the money or the luxury to do that.”

Last month, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton made it clear that the demand for $20 million in compensation for Burge torture victims is going nowhere.

“It would be very difficult to justify spending taxpayer dollars to settle a claim that’s barred,” Patton said then.


Twitter: @fspielman

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