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Police brass: No special treatment

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayor Daley’s nephew received no favored treatment from the “thorough, fair and impartial” investigation that followed the 2004 death of a 21-year-old man who got into an altercation with a group that included the mayor’s nephew, a high-ranking police official said Monday.

Although witnesses were recently re-interviewed, Deputy Police Supt. Ernest Brown said the investigation into David Koschman’s death was never technically re-opened.

“The investigative portion of the case was completed. ... Based on the [Freedom of Information request] from the Sun-Times, we realized that, because of an administrative oversight, the case remained unclosed. So we shifted it to a different area for a comprehensive review of the entire investigative process as it stood,” Brown said.

“That review revealed that the facts of that investigation remained unchanged since it was initially investigated, and it will be closed shortly.”

Brown was asked whether he’s confident R.J. Vanecko, the mayor’s nephew, got no favored treatment in the case.

“Absolutely. ... I’m confident that we conducted a comprehensive investigation — a thorough, fair and impartial investigation,” said Brown, chief of the Bureau of Patrol.

Pressed to explain the delay in questioning witnesses, Brown said, “That’s as much as I’m at liberty to answer right now.”

Daley repeatedly refused to comment on questions raised by the Chicago Sun-Times after the newspaper conducted its own investigation into Koschman’s death.

Asked why the case was re-opened, Daley initially changed the subject to his push for stricter gun laws, the purpose of Monday’s news conference.

“I know you want to talk about other things. [But] this is gun violence. Would you ask a question on that one, please? Ask one. Can you ask a question on gun violence? Why not? ... Knock-knock. No one is there,” Daley said as police and community leaders who joined him at the Homan Square police warehouse laughed along with him.

Asked repeatedly whether his nephew was treated with kid gloves, Daley initially said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Then, he said, “I have no idea. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. ... Any other questions?”

Koschman was punched on Division Street on April 25, 2004 after leaving a bar with a group of friends. He fell, hit his head and died 12 days later.

A Sun-Times probe turned up problems with the way the police and prosecutors originally handled their investigation into Koschman’s violent death.

Detectives didn’t begin interviewing witnesses until after Koschman died. They didn’t conduct lineups to try to identify who threw the punch until almost a month after it happened — and Vanecko had reportedly shaved his head. And prosecutors say their files on the case have disappeared.

In January, just days after the Sun-Times filed a Freedom of Information request for police reports in the case, Chicago Police re-interviewed the four people who were with Koschman the night he was punched.

The four friends, now speaking publicly for the first time, all told the Sun-Times that the police and prosecutors arrived at the wrong conclusion back in 2004 about the slightly built Koschman being the aggressor that night and concluding that whoever hit him had acted in self-defense.

Vanecko’s group that night included Craig Denham, a former LaSalle Bank official who later married a sister of Daley’s son-in-law, and Kevin D. McCarthy and his wife, Bridget Higgins McCarthy. She’s a daughter of developer Jack Higgins, a close friend of the mayor.

Kevin McCarthy was 31 and his wife 26 on the night their lives intersected with those of Koschman and his friends, who all had recently turned 21. The McCarthys remained on the scene after Koschman was struck and fell. Denham and Vanecko, both 29 at the time, ran away, the Sun-Times reported Monday. The McCarthys and Denham declined to comment. Vanecko did not return calls seeking comment.

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