Burge to appear in Chicago court Monday

May 24, 2010 11:15:48 AM PDT
Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is scheduled to return to Chicago for a court hearing on Monday. Tuesday, Burge was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say he lied under oath when he denied he participated in the torture of suspects.

The charges were not a surprise for an author who wrote a book about the subject. Reporter John Conroy wrote for the Chicago Reader for the past three decades. He estimates he has written more than 120,000 words about the torture allegations surrounding Burge. Wednesday, Conroy had only three words in reaction to the charges: "It's about time."

Jon Burge left the courthouse Tuesday without saying much to reporters. For the past two decades, the former Chicago police commander has been the target of federal and local torture investigations. According to federal prosecutors, Burge lied in written answers to a civil rights lawsuit when he said he and detectives under his command never tortured suspects.

"If Al Capone went down for taxes that was better than him going down for nothing. In this case, if you look at the indictment, what is being alleged by the grand jury is he tortured and abused people," said Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney.

More than 100 African-American men have come forward claiming they were tortured by Burge and his men to get them to confess to crimes they didn't commit. Burge was arrested Tuesday on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

"It was a surprise. It shouldn't have been, but it was surprising anyway. It's taken so long for this to happen, it just seemed like it never would," said Conroy.

Conroy is one of the city's leading reporters on the allegations of torture in the Chicago Police Department. He is the author of Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People, which features a section on Jon Burge. Conroy says he believes U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has put together a strong case.

"Yesterday at the press conference Fitzgerald said there was a moment when he knew had a case. I don't think that was victim testimony because victim testimony has been out there for years. I think that had to be an insider saying 'Yeah, I was there, I saw it,' " said Conroy.

A long and perhaps costly trial awaits. As for what it will cost taxpayers, Conroy says it's hard to say, but the main cost to the city will be from a moral standpoint.

"I think morally it's a real stain. It's the only city in the country that's got a 35-year-old torture scandal in which justice has never been done and in which to this day men are serving time in prison on the basis of very suspect confessions," said Conroy.

Jon Burge has been ordered to give up his guns. He'll turn them over to his neighbor in Florida, who is a retired head of the Chicago Police Department Bomb Squad.

Burge also surrendered his passport. He will only be allowed to travel to Chicago for his court appearances.


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