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Mayor Emanuel: Deny Burge city pension, pay for Daley’s defense

For his role as Cook County state’s attorney former Mayor Richard M. Daley (left) has prosecutorial immunity from lawsuits. But

For his role as Cook County state’s attorney, former Mayor Richard M. Daley (left) has prosecutorial immunity from lawsuits. But under the scope of his tenure as mayor, he is listed as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging a cover-up of police torture under former Lt. Jon Burge (right).

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Updated: October 3, 2011 12:02PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel walked a political tightrope Wednesday on the explosive police torture allegations that continue to surround convicted former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

Emanuel argued that Burge should be denied a city pension but that former Mayor Richard M. Daley must be provided with a legal defense for his role in the case.

Responding to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times that a federal judge has ruled that Daley can be sued over allegations that he helped engineer a citywide conspiracy to cover up the torture allegations, Emanuel refused to comment on the propriety of deposing Daley.

He would only say that Chicago taxpayers have no choice but to defend the former mayor.

“We have an obligation, as a city, to pay for that legal representation. That said, [I intend to] make sure that the dollars spent are being watched over and not being reckless and running up unnecessary legal bills,” Emanuel said at an unrelated event. “I won’t comment on the case. … You have an ongoing case. It would be inappropriate for me to speak on it. … [But] we have an obligation, as a city, given the professional work that they did during that time. But we’re not gonna be reckless and let the meter run legally on that.”

Mayor Emanuel was also asked Wednesday whether he supports Attorney General Lisa Madigan in her efforts to strip Burge of his city pension. That was an issue he was more than happy to weigh in on.

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

“I believe … that when you’re convicted of a crime — and I’m not talking about a speeding ticket, I’m talking about something that deals with you professionally — you’ve lost the benefits associated with that because you’ve dishonored the office,” Emanuel said.

Sun-Times political columnist Carol Marin reported Wednesday that Daley has received notice to appear for a Sept. 8 deposition, now that U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmayer has ruled that the former mayor can be sued.

That would force the former mayor to answer questions from attorneys representing alleged victims, all African American, who charge their abuse came at the hands of a small band of predominantly white police officers under Burge’s Area 2 command.

Despite Emanuel’s statement, attorney Flint Taylor argued Wednesday that the mayor does have a choice. He can stop defending Burge, his fellow officers and Daley and enter into negotiations to compensate Michael Tillman and other victims of police torture.

That’s what Daley did in 2008. He agreed to a $19.8 million settlement with four alleged torture victims.

“What’s happening now is the city is throwing good money after bad by defending the indefensible. It’s totally established that Burge tortured these people, yet the defense goes on,” Taylor said.

Sources close to Daley argued that the former mayor’s deposition was “not a done deal.” Attorneys representing the former mayor have filed a motion to reconsider. They’re trying to block the deposition on grounds that Daley’s involvement in the case stems from his tenure as state’s attorney and that prosecutors have “absolute immunity.”

The Burge case has already cost Chicago taxpayers more than $43 million in settlements and outside legal fees. Burge is in federal prison.

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