The federal grand jury cannot indict Burge for electro-shocking, suffocating, burning or beating criminal suspects. The statute of limitations for those alleged crimes expired many years ago. But the former commander can be charged with lying about his activities as a cop if the alleged lies were told within the past five years.
When asked about torture during videotaped depositions related to civil lawsuits, Burge, who was fired by the city in 1993, has repeatedly invoked his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.But Burge, now living in Florida and still collecting a city pension, did answer the torture question during one deposition.
The November 25, 2003 session was not videotaped but was transcribed by a court reporter and signed by Burge. He said under oath "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 Two."
Attorney Flint Taylor, who took the deposition, said the statement should be enough to get Burge indicted federally for perjury and obstruction of justice.
"It's a direct document and the only document within the statute of limitations," Taylor said. "Obviously there is a tremendous amount of evidence that he tortured hundreds of black suspects over many years."
A Cook County investigation concluded that Burge or detectives under his command did torture suspects during the 1970s and '80s. But the special prosecutor did not seek any indictments, saying the statute of limitations had expired on the crimes.
Last year, responding to criticism of the county report, the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed its own investigation.
Meanwhile, the city council has voted to pay millions of dollars to settle torture-related lawsuits and continues to spend millions more to defend Burge, who could face federal criminal charges by year's end.
"We do not believe Burge should be defended by the city of Chicago because of all the atrocities that took place under his watch, and we believe he was involved some of those himself," said Ald. Ed Smith, 21st Ward.
Smith's resolution to stop Burge's legal payments is stalled. The mayor says the city is obligated by law and union contract to defend police officers accused of wrongdoing while on duty.
The possible perjury in question would have occurred after Burge left the police department. So there might be some legal wiggle room for the city council if there is an indictment.