Under immunity from prosecution, former cop Michael McDermott backed away from previous grand jury testimony.
McDermott said Monday he never saw Burge put his gun to a murder suspect's head nor suffocate him with a bag. He did admit on the stand that the interaction he witnessed between Burge and the suspect was probably reckless but did not constitute abuse.
Monday marked the eighth day of the trial, in which Burge is accused of lying about abusing suspects while he was a Chicago police officer.
McDermott testified that he was granted immunity and ordered to testify truthfully by the judge. The retired officer said that he witnessed a scuffle in Lieutenant Burge's officer with then suspect Shadeed Mu'min and Lt. Burge during which a gun was pointed at Mu'min.
"It appeared it was pointed at him but from where I was it was hard to say," said McDermott.
He further testified that Burge put something that could have been a typewriter bag in Mu'min's face. "I saw something in his hand, something clear in his hand, something briefly in front of his face. He approached, came up from the side or behind him. There was something in front of his face," McDermott said. "I don't think this is abusive in any way.
"I was shocked about the whole thing. I don't know why it happened. From what I saw, I thought it was inappropriate," McDermott said about the incident, which took place in the '80s at Area 2.
Attorney Flint Taylor's law office has represented several men who accuse Burge of torture.
"This breaks ground for sure and is the first time the government or prosecutor has been successful in breaking the law of silence that has been so strong for so many years with regard to the Chicago Police Department and police torture," said Taylor.
Under cross examination McDermott admitted he lied in other statements given under oath. And despite invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent previously, he felt he had to testify because if he were charged with perjury or obstruction of justice he would lose his pension and his current job with the Cook County State's Attorney office. He said that he has since been suspended from the office since it became public knowledge that he was going to testify in this case. He believes he will likely lose his job as a result of testifying.
Also on Monday, McDermott said he testified in another case that he had laid hands on a suspect and knocked down the suspect because the suspect was confrontational. In testimony before the operations of professional standards board, he said he lied because he thought the suspect had murdered someone and he didn't want that suspect to get off.