Source: Chicago Tribune
By Steve Mills and Todd Lighty/Tribune reporters
July 14, 2011
Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge is in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying about the torture of suspects. (José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune / June 29, 2010)
With former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge in prison for lying about the torture of criminal suspects, federal officials have turned their investigation to detectives who worked under Burge and to former Cook County prosecutors, the Tribune has learned.
FBI agents and federal prosecutors from Chicago and the Justice Department's civil rights office in Washington are looking into the testimony and actions of several detectives who worked for Burge, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The authorities are also examining the role of assistant state's attorneys who once worked in the office's felony review unit, visiting the widow of one former prosecutor just two weeks ago, the sources said. Felony review prosecutors play a crucial role in approving criminal charges against suspects and in some cases help direct investigations and question suspects.
The developments signal that an embarrassing and costly scandal that has dogged the city for decades may not soon be over.
The allegations against Burge and the detectives under his command — the so-called midnight crew at Area 2 police headquarters — date to the 1970s and 1980s. Dozens of suspects have alleged over the years that officers beat, electric-shocked or smothered them to coerce confessions to murder.
But for years it appeared Burge, who was fired in 1993, would escape criminal charges altogether. A four-year investigation by special Cook County prosecutors concluded in 2006 that the statute of limitations on the claims of abuse had long passed. But in 2008 federal prosecutors indicted Burge not for the torture itself but for lying about it in a civil lawsuit. A federal jury convicted him last year of obstruction of justice and perjury.
After Burge's conviction, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald pledged that the investigation would continue into the torture allegations.
The sources said federal prosecutors and FBI agents have been collecting court records and conducting interviews.
Burge has cost the city more than $30 million in legal actions stemming from the torture allegations, and when he went to prison in March to begin his 4 1/2-year sentence, at least seven lawsuits that alleged torture were still pending.
Among the cases authorities are inquiring about is the 1990 murder and rape investigation that sent Harold Hill and Dan Young Jr. to prison with life sentences, according to sources. The charges against the two were dropped in February 2005 after DNA tests cleared them, but there were problems with the case from the start — though prosecutors and police at the Area 3 police headquarters, where Burge had been transferred, still pressed forward with it.
Hill, Young and a third man, Peter Williams, were charged with the murder of Kathy Morgan, whose body was found in an abandoned building on Chicago's South Side. The case went unsolved for almost 18 months when Hill was arrested on an unrelated robbery charge. During questioning, he confessed to the Morgan murder and implicated Young and Williams. In time, Young and Williams also confessed and implicated the other two.
Williams later realized he was in Cook County Jail on a drug charge when the murder took place. Although the charges against Williams were dropped, prosecutors took the other two to trial and won convictions.
The case was featured in the 2001 Tribune series "Cops and Confessions," which in part examined murders investigated by Detective Kenneth Boudreau and his partner, John Halloran, who both worked under Burge's supervision. In a long career, Boudreau helped obtain confessions from more than a dozen defendants in murder cases in which the charges later were dismissed or the defendant was acquitted at trial, the Tribune found.
Boudreau, according to the Tribune investigation, got a confession from a man accused of two murders, though both later were undermined by DNA. He also helped obtain confessions from two mentally disabled teenagers for two separate murder cases, but both were acquitted at trial. He has been accused in both criminal trials and civil suits of punching, slapping and kicking suspects as well as taking advantage of suspects with mental impairments or low IQs.
Boudreau and Halloran investigated the Morgan murder and helped obtain the confessions that sent Hill and Young to prison. After their release, Hill and Young sued Boudreau, Halloran and other officers for their roles in their wrongful convictions, as well as former Assistant State's Attorney Mike Rogers, who worked as a felony review unit prosecutor in the investigation.
The estate for Young, who died in 2006 after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver on the South Side, settled its lawsuit against the city and the police officers in early 2008 for $700,000. A lawsuit against Rogers, who committed suicide last year, was thrown out before his death. Hill has recently reached a settlement with Cook County over Rogers' role in obtaining the confession; it awaits County Board approval. Hill's suit against the city and the police officers is scheduled to go to trial this year.
Hill has returned to prison following an unrelated armed robbery conviction. He is serving 27 years.
Burge was voluntarily dropped from Young's lawsuit, and a judge dismissed him from Hill's lawsuit after it was determined he had been suspended because of other torture allegations when Hill, Young and Williams were being questioned.
Last year, partial genetic profiles from material under Morgan's fingernails were entered into databases and linked to two individuals. Since then, Hill's attorney, Russell Ainsworth, and lawyers for the city have been arguing over the importance of those partial matches, according to court documents. No one else has been charged.
Federal authorities also have been examining investigations handled by former Sgt. John Byrne and Detective Peter Dignan, who both worked for Burge over the years and have faced lawsuits over allegations they beat or tortured suspects into confessing, according to sources.
A spokesman for the Justice Department's civil rights office declined to comment.
Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city's Law Department, which defends Chicago police officers against allegations of wrongdoing, said the city was unaware of new developments in the investigation but it had no expectation that the probe was over. A spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office also declined to comment but said the office would cooperate with any inquiry.
Byrne, who works as a private detective, said he has had no recent contact with authorities but declined to comment further. Rogers' widow, through a lawyer, declined to comment, as did Boudreau. Dignan and Halloran could not be reached for comment. Over the years, all the officers have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
In: Regional News, Other News, Other
Tags: torture, police commander, police, chicagotribune.com, copblock.org, cop block
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States (load item map)
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