Alleged torture victims testify at Burge sentencing

January 20, 2011 3:33:36 PM PST
Two men who said they were tortured by Jon Burge testified at the former Chicago police lieutenant's sentencing hearing Thursday.

Burge was convicted in June for lying about the torture of suspects.

Both alleged victims spoke about how they were tortured into making false confessions to crimes at Burge's a somewhat unique, two-day sentencing hearing. The hearing will include testimony from those who think Burge should spend the rest of his life behind bars and those who believe he was a good cop who is being unfairly bashed.

The sentencing is also something of a history lesson on race relations and police behavior in Chicago. Judge Joan Lefkow will decide what will happen to Burge.

"It's been over 30 years. I was the first one Burge got and did this to, and through it all nobody believed what I told 'em," said Anthony Holmes who was wrongly convicted. Thirty eight years ago, Holmes says he was tortured with an electrical shock box by Burge, who was the area 2 police commander for the CPD at the time.

Burge denies torturing anyone and says he never witnessed nor ever approved any officers' use of torture techniques to win confessions. However, in June a federal jury convicted Burge of lying about that. And now the disgraced ex-police commander -- and subject of millions of dollars in police brutality court cases -- is about to be sentenced.

At Thursday's hearing, Holmes told a packed courtroom that his years in prison robbed his family, robbed him of much of his life, and left him with a nightmare he forever relives.

"I don't hate him. I hate what he did to me, and I hate the fact that nobody would listen to me when I tried to tell people about it, it fell on deaf ears," Holmes said.

Melvin Jones also did years in prison for a murder he didn't commit and alleges he was tortured by Burge. He also testified at the hearing.

"He put a gun to my head, and said a lot of things that I couldn't mention here. He just did things I didn't think a police officer was capable of doing," said Jones.

Holmes and Jones' testimony is part of the government's effort to convince Judge Joan Lefkow that Burge deserves substantial prison time because the impact of his behavior went beyond individual cases and has-- on a much a much larger scale-- fed into the distrust of and anger at police in many of Chicago's African American neighborhoods.

The sentencing range for Burge is 21 to 27 months by federal guidelines though Lefkow is not bound by that.

"Far as I'm concerned what happened to him today is more than long overdue. And still he's not gonna get what he should get. He should be in prison for the rest of his life until he dies," said Darrell Cannon, who was wrongfully convicted.

Prosecutors originally asked for a term of up to 30-years. Earlier rulings by the judge indicate that's not likely.

Judge Joan Lefkow could go with a sentence within the federal sentencing guidelines of 21 to 27 months. But she could depart from that, increasing or decreasing the time.

On Friday, Burge will present witnesses who support him.

Judge Lefkow said Thursday she has been inundated with letters expressing a variety of opinion on this case and that she's going to try to read them all before announcing her sentence.