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How the David Koschman case unfolded

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Updated: May 8, 2012 8:03AM

David Koschman died in 2004, but his death as the result of being punched by a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley has been back in the news since the publication in February 2011 of the first of a series of reports in a Chicago Sun-Times investigation. Those reports prompted Koschman’s family to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor to re-examine the circumstances of his violent death and to investigate the way the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office handled the case.

Here are some key dates in the newspaper’s investigation and actions that resulted from those reports:

Jan. 18, 2011 — The Chicago Police Department denies a Sun-Times request to review the police reports on the nearly 7-year-old case, citing an “ongoing criminal investigation.” Then-police Supt. Jody Weis would later explain that, although a previous police superintendent had called the case closed in 2004, it was never formally closed, and the request prompted him to have a new set of detectives reinvestigate Koschman’s death.

Feb. 28, 2011 — The paper reports that Koschman had gotten into a drunken confrontation on Division Street near Dearborn Street in the early-morning hours of April 25, 2004, with a group that included Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko and was punched in the face and fell and hit his head on the sidewalk. He would die 11 days later from the resulting brain injuries. Vanecko and a friend ran away before the police arrived. The police would conclude that Koschman was punched in self-defense and that he was the “aggressor” that night, though friends who were with the 21-year-old Mount Prospect man that night dispute that. The state’s attorney’s office had a top prosecutor meet face-to-face with witnesses and detectives about the case on May 20, 2004 — but now can’t locate any records of its involvement.

March 1, 2011 — The police close their reinvestigation of the Koschman case without seeking criminal charges or consulting with prosecutors — but publicly identify Vanecko for the first time as the man who punched Koschman. Detectives again conclude that Vanecko — who was 29 at the time, stood 6-feet-3, weighed 230 pounds and was a former college football player — acted in self-defense when he hit the 5-foot-5, 140-pound Koschman. They don’t interview Vanecko but cite interviews with others.

March 3, 2011 — Michael Connolly — a bystander whom authorities had described as one of two “unbiased witnesses” to the deadly confrontation — disputes the conclusion that Koschman had been physically aggressive and says in an interview that, despite what the police say, he never told them that.

March 14, 2011 — The newspaper reports that, within hours of being called to the scene, the police halted their initial investigation and didn’t resume investigating until 15 days later. By that time, Koschman had been dead for four days.

March 24, 2011 — Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez — who was third in command of the prosecutor’s office in 2004 — asks the Illinois State Police to review the police handling of the case “to ensure that we reach the truth.”

March 30, 2011 — The newspaper reports that Joseph Ferguson — the city of Chicago’s inspector general — is investigating the police handling of the Koschman case. That investigation remains open.

April 4, 2011 — After first agreeing to Alvarez’s request, the state police say they won’t investigate. Interim Illinois State Police director Patrick Keen tells Alvarez the case should be examined instead by a law-enforcement agency that — unlike his — could convene a grand jury. On the same day the state agency had agreed to review the case, Gov. Pat Quinn announced he was appointing Hiram Grau as its new director as of April 11. Grau formerly was Alvarez’s chief deputy in the state’s attorney’s office and was a deputy superintendent in charge of the Chicago Police Department’s detectives at the time of Koschman’s death.

Sept. 12, 2011 — According to a police report from 2004 — which had never been made public and which the police now say they only recently “discovered” — a witness told detectives Vanecko had been acting in a “very aggressive” manner toward Koschman in the moments before the punch.

Dec. 14, 2011 — Nanci Koschman — David Koschman’s mother — files court papers with her sister and brother-in-law asking Chief Cook County Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel to appoint a special prosecutor, a request that Biebel, citing his own health problems, puts in the hands of Judge Michael Toomin.

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