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FOP defended Burge but not cops facing minor accusations

Former Chicago Police Cmdr. JBurge  |  Sun-Times files

Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge | Sun-Times files

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Updated: August 16, 2013 3:37PM

When former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge was indicted on a federal perjury charge over allegations of police torture, his legal fees were paid by the union that represents rank-and-file Chicago cops.

When Burge was convicted of lying about how detectives under his command used torture to get crime suspects to confess, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 also paid for Burge’s appeal, which court records show cost more than $200,000.

The police union would not pay, though, for an attorney for Officer Aaron Pena when he was fired in 2008 after being charged with shoplifting, accused of stealing a 99-cent bag of trail mix. Pena, who was found not guilty by a judge, says he spent about $10,000 on legal fees to fight his dismissal, which was cut to a 15-day suspension after he retired in October 2008.

Nor would the union cover the legal fees of Officer Samantha S. Moore when the Chicago Police Department tried to fire her in 2011 after a raid on her home found two illegal guns and some marijuana. Moore wasn’t charged with a crime but was suspended from the department for seven months.

“I believe the FOP should have paid for my attorney,” Moore says. “What’s the use of paying union dues if the union won’t fight for you?”

How does the union decide whom to defend?

“If the FOP determines that a case is duty-related, it may pay for legal fees of an officer,” union president Michael K. Shields says by email, declining an interview request. “An allegation of retail theft is not duty-related.”

Nor, Shields notes, was the caught-on-video battery of a female bartender by off-duty Officer Anthony Abbate, who was convicted of aggravated battery and sentenced in 2009 to two years of probation.

“FOP did not pay any legal fees in that case, either,” says Shields.

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