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Burge can keep his cop pension

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

He was convicted of lying and obstructing justice, and a special prosecutor said he tortured suspects.

But as Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge begins serving a 4½-year prison term this spring, he still will draw his police pension check, the police pension board decided Thursday.

A tied 4-4 vote by the board means Burge will continue to draw the $3,039-a-month pension that he began receiving in 1997 — four years after the department fired him for misconduct involving a murder suspect.

Burge, 63, was sentenced last week to 41/2 years in prison after convictions last summer on perjury and obstruction of justice related to the way he gave answers in a lawsuit that claimed he and underlings tortured murder suspects who were in police custody. He is scheduled to report to prison in March.

Thomas Pleines, who represented Burge at the hearing, said he called Burge, who was in Florida undergoing a medical procedure, to break the news.

“He’s very relieved. He was happy, and he was glad to get some good news for once,” Pleines said.

Critics called the decision “outrageous,’’ but board member Michael Shields, a member of the Police Department who voted against terminating Burge’s pension, said it boiled down to the “Illinois pension code and case law.”

“Jon Burge had no law enforcement duties at the time he was alleged to have committed his crimes of perjury on an interrogatory in a civil deposition,” Shields said.

Burge answered questions in the interrogatory in 2003, 10 years after he was booted from his job over his treatment of a suspect. Pleines said the pension board had the burden of proof in showing that Burge should no longer receive a pension. He said the ruling is final.

Flint Taylor, an attorney who has represented those who say Burge tortured them, said he has long called on the city to end the pension — which he said Burge has received for about a dozen years — and to stop paying the legal fees of lawyers who represented Burge in civil suits.

He called Thursday’s decision “completely outrageous and mind-boggling after all that’s gone on in court, the jury’s verdict and the judge’s findings in sentencing him,” Taylor said. “I think it’s a complete slap in the face to all the citizens in the City of Chicago.”

Taylor said that when Burge was convicted of lying and obstructing justice, it was in a civil lawsuit concerning his actions while an officer. At the time, the city paid the legal fees of attorneys representing Burge because he was being questioned about conduct while he was a police officer, Taylor said.

“To turn around and say he wasn’t acting as a police officer is just an outrageous decision,” Taylor said of the board’s reasoning in allowing Burge to keep his pension.

Mark A. Clements, a national organizer for the Jail Jon Burge Coalition, said the ruling “is a prime example of how the City of Chicago protects misconduct by some of its officials.’’

The decision was applauded by Burge’s attorneys, who said the pension didn’t amount to much income.

“It’s paltry. It’s a little more than Social Security,” said Burge lawyer Marc Martin.

“They keep acting like he’s drawing millions from the city, and he draws about $30,000 a year,” another lawyer, William Gamboney said. “Im glad to see he still has minimal means of support.”

Half of the police pension board is made up of members of the Police Department elected by police to oversee the fund. Shields, Michael Lazarro, Kenneth Hauser and James Maloney all vote against revoking Burge’s pension.

The other four board members, who all work in the financial sector and were appointed by Mayor Daley, voted in favor of terminating his pension. They were Stephanie Neely, Gene Saffold, Michael Conway and Steven Lux.

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