Daley could be defendant in Burge lawsuits

August 10, 2011 7:16:55 PM PDT
Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will fight a judge's ruling that legally connects him to an alleged cover-up of police brutality under former police commander Jon Burge.

Daley has reportedly been notified that he must appear for a deposition in early September.

The judge's ruling opens the door for lawsuits against the former mayor - alleging he was aware of a cover-up involving cases of police torture.

Up until now, the former mayor and his lawyers have always been successful in getting his name removed from these types of civil lawsuits, arguing that as Cook County's chief prosecutor in the 1980s, he had immunity.

Now, a federal judge has ruled that in one of the cases, Daley can be questioned about whether there was a conspiracy to keep police torture under wraps.

Michael Tillman claims he was tortured by Burge. Tillman was charged and convicted for a 1986 murder. He claims Burge and officers under his command tortured him to confess. He spent 23 years behind bars until he was released from prison in 2010 and his conviction was dropped.

Like many of Burge's alleged torture victims, Tillman filed a federal lawsuit against him, other officers, the police department, and then-Cook County State's Attorney Daley.

The city's attorneys filed a motion to remove Daley from Tillman's lawsuit. But, in a decision Tuesday, federal Judge Rebecca Palmeyer denied the motion.

Tillman's attorney says the decision clears the way for Daley to also be sued.

"My client was tortured with waterboarding, suffocation. He spent 23 and a half years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. He was recently exonerated and given a certificate of innocence. He's very pleased that all of the people, including Mayor Daley, who are responsible for his torture and the torture of many other men over a 20-year period, are being held in civil rights lawsuit he has brought," said Attorney Flint Taylor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Daley has been named in three other police brutality lawsuits related to Burge, and in those other suits, the city has also filed motions to remove the former mayor from the case.

Darrel Cannon spent 25 years in prison before being released after evidence emerged that he was tortured by police under the command of Jon Burge.

"Daley took an oath to uphold the law at all costs," said Cannon. "He was head of the state's attorney's office. Daley had an obligation to investigate all of these allegations that came up over police brutality and Daley did nothing."

The former mayor was the Cook County State's Attorney when the alleged torture took place. He has never before been questioned under oath by attorneys representing torture victims.

"The judge found that our allegations were sufficient to make out a conspiracy that he was involved in the cover-up of the police torture scandal over many years, particularly while he was mayor," said Taylor.

"Given what's happened to Burge, he's going to be advised very carefully by his attorneys as to how to answer questions to avoid any potential criminal liability or charges of perjury," said civil rights attorney Larry Jackowiak.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the city will pick up Daley's legal bill because the case involves his tenure as mayor.

"But we're not going to be reckless and let the meter run... legally," said Emanuel.

Burge is already serving prison time for perjury. He is accused of torturing suspects to get confessions. Since torture allegations came to light, several convictions have been overturned.

Burge and many of his former detectives have always taken the fifth, including in a newly-released deposition from prison in May.

"It is my desire to answer your questions fully, however, I am aware that merely answering your questions may lead to my prosecution for a criminal offense," says Burge in the videotaped deposition.

Cannon had one key question for Daley: "Exactly what did you know and when did you know it?"

A spokesperson for Daley would only say Wednesday that Daley does not believe he should have to sit for the deposition because it involves events when he was state's attorney, and therefore, he has immunity.

However, if the judge does not see it Daley's way and does not reverse her decision, Daley will have to raise his right hand and answer questions about police torture in the deposition scheduled for September 8th.

Burge was convicted of perjury in 2010 and sentenced to four and one-half years in prison. Another group of attorneys, including former Gov. Jim Thompson, is filing a separate motion involving Burge in Illinois Supreme Court. They claim there are 15 other potential torture victims currently in prison who deserve -- at the very least -- a hearing. Those hearings could eventually lead to prisoners proving their innocence.

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