Chicago Sun-Times


After decades of accusations, Burge finally faces charges 
 
October 22, 2008

BY NATASHA KORECKI nkorecki@suntimes.com

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. -- Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge's arrest here Tuesday didn't close the book on decades-long allegations of police torture, federal authorities said.

Jon Burge at his arraignment
Jon Burge enters courthouse
The FBI will investigate "others who may have participated in these crimes or knew about them but remained silent," said Chicago's FBI chief, Robert Grant.

Burge, 60, was arrested at his Apollo Beach home on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He's accused of lying under oath in a lawsuit accusing him and other officers of torture. After his court hearing in Tampa, he was released on $250,000 bond.

Burge was accompanied by former Chicago Police Lt. Tom Brady, who lives near Burge and brought his friend his reading glasses.
Burge told the court he travels to Las Vegas as a security consultant for trade shows. The judge told Burge he's restricted to Florida and the Chicago area. He must turn over four pistols and a rifle to Brady.

Burge limped as he left court. He explained that he suffers from knee problems. "I'm old. I'm hurting," he said. "Please leave me alone."

Burge wouldn't talk about the charges, but Brady was quick to defend him. "The city of Chicago politics caught him up in this," Brady said. "The mayor of the city of Chicago fired him after he was found innocent, twice."

At least three of Burge's former police colleagues -- John "Jack" Byrne, Peter Dignan and Daniel McWeeney -- also have denied under oath that they were involved in torture. Their 2006 statements were given in a lawsuit brought by alleged torture victim Darrell Cannon, court records show.

Asked Tuesday if he still stands behind his 2006 statement, Byrne said, "Of course I do. I don't worry about it. . . . I feel very bad for Jon Burge. I've known him all my life."

The charges against Burge are in connection with sworn statements he gave in 2003 in a suit by former Death Row inmate Madison Hobley. Hobley claimed Burge and other officers tortured him into confessing to a 1987 arson that killed seven people.

Burge was asked if he used sleep deprivation, phone book beatings, electric shock or other methods to torture suspects.

He replied, "I have never used any techniques set forth above as a means of improper coercion of suspects while in detention or during interrogation." Later, he added, "I have not observed nor do I have knowledge of any other examples of physical abuse and/or torture on the part of Chicago Police officers at Area 2."

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said prosecutors will try to prove that Burge tortured suspects and knew that other officers did, too. One method was "bagging," putting a typewriter cover over a suspect's head, the indictment said. Fitzgerald emphasized that prosecutors are not necessarily claiming Hobley was tortured.

Hobley was on Illinois' Death Row for the murders of his wife, child and five others in a 1987 arson on the South Side. In 2003, Gov. George Ryan pardoned him and three other Death Row inmates after they claimed they were tortured into giving murder confessions.

Edward Egan, a former appellate judge, and Robert Boyle, a former Cook County prosecutor, later were appointed as special Cook County prosecutors to investigate the torture allegations. In 2006, they released a report that found Hobley probably was lying about torture.

Last year, federal authorities launched a new investigation of the 1987 arson -- and whether Hobley was involved.

Egan and Boyle's $7 million investigation concluded that dozens of other suspects were tortured decades ago by Burge and his colleagues. Still, the special prosecutors said they were unable to bring charges against the former officers because the state's statute of limitations had expired.

Fitzgerald said the federal statute of limitations for torture also has expired. But the federal statute of limitations for perjury is five years. Prosecutors were able to charge Burge with perjury because he gave his statements in November 2003.

"If Al Capone went down for taxes, it's better than him going down for nothing," Fitzgerald said.

Flint Taylor, an attorney who represents some of Burge's alleged victims, said he was "extremely pleased and gratified that, so many years later, a U.S. attorney has made the move to indict the leader of the police torture ring. I presume some of his henchman will be charged, too."

Already, the torture claims have cost the city of Chicago millions of dollars. Hobley and the other three pardoned Death Row inmates sued the city and agreed to share nearly $20 million in a legal settlement.

In one lawsuit, Cook County Judge Dennis Dernbach is continuing to battle former Death Row inmate Leroy Orange in court. Orange accuses Dernbach of coaching his 1984 murder confession while Dernbach was an assistant state's attorney on the case. Dernbach denies the claim.

Natasha Korecki reported from Florida. Frank Main, Carol Marin and Shamus Toomey contributed from Chicago.


Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice