Burge pleads not guilty in torture case

CHICAGO The Dirksen courtroom was filled Monday, and the hallway outside it was lined with people who had come to see the man whose name has been linked for the last two decades with abuse and torture of criminal suspects.

Jon Burge has always denied that he took part in any torture, or had any knowledge of it occurring on his watch. However, his denial is a lie, according to the United States government.

In his arraignment Monday, Burge responded with the words "not guilty."

Burge, the ex-commander and now the defendant, came to court early Monday and did not speak to reporters. His attorney, on the other hand, said Burge was anxious to bring his case to trial and believed he'd be exonerated.

"Commander Burge is eager to go to trial, [to] go to court and be exonerated of these charges. We intend to hold the government to a high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. As soon as we get a chance to further evaluate the testimony, we'll have a better idea which direction we will go in our defense," said attorney Bill Gamboney.

Burge's appearance Monday before Judge Joan Lefkow lasted no more than five minutes. His attorneys entered a not guilty plea for him. His only words spoken aloud were "Good Morning, Your Honor."

"The city has to step up the plate. Stop defending Burge, and instead, take care of the victims," said Flint Taylor who is representing alleged torture victims.

A lot of people came to see Burge's appearance Monday. The former police commander has been living in Florida. Among those present at the courthouse were some of the men who say they were tortured by Burge and his subordinates years ago.

"Jon Burge, I'm so happy to see you here in Chicago, and hopefully, between now and the next 12 months, he will have to sell his boat. There will be no more boating down in Florida. There will be no more languishing around in his shorts. Instead, he will have a prison uniform on, which he should have had a long time ago," said alleged torture victim Darrell Cannon."This is poetic justice. Justice will prevail. It's been a long time coming, but it's here."

" Nobody cared about us because we were ex-convicts. We're happy now that somebody cares, and they're doing," said Anthony Holmes, also an alleged torture victim.

Jon Burge is not directly charged with torturing criminal defendants, but he is charged with lying about it. To make their case for perjury and obstruction of justice, federal prosecutors first must prove that criminal suspects were abused by Burge and other police interrogators.

The feds are not yet prepared to discuss the witnesses they will call at trial.

"I just want the truth to come out today. I'm glad to be here, and I hope the truth will prevail," said alleged victim Greg Banks.

For security reasons, Jon Burge was allowed to leave the courthouse via a lower level walkway, away from a large group of people who despise him, and outside of the view of cameras.

The City of Chicago has paid for Burge's defense in the many civil actions against him, but it is not paying for his defense in this criminal case. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) did pay for Burge's legal representation Monday, but the FOP has not yet made a decision on whether it will continue to do so.

Monday, the judge set May 11, 2009 as a tentative trial date. However, it is likely that date will be pushed back because Burge's attorneys say they will shortly begin receiving what they anticipate will be thousands of court documents.

Mr. Burge, in the meantime, remains free on bond. He has a court appearance set for November 19, but he is not compelled to be present for that.

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