Plea deal for Richard Vanecko in 2004 death of David Koschman

January 31, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Vanecko, nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, was supposed to go to trial next month. Vanecko's attorney, who calls him RJ, said he's a good person who should not be judged by his worst few seconds. Almost ten years ago after a night of drinking, Vanecko threw a single punch that dropped Koschman outside a Division Street bar. Koschman hit his head and died 11 days later.

On Friday, Vanecko entered the guilty plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter as part of a negotiated deal. Most important to Koschman's mother, he apologized.

In court, Vanecko turned to face Nancy Koschman and said, "I can't imagine your pain and suffering. . . If I could undo what was done, I would. But I can't. I'm sorry."

Vanecko left court without comment. His lawyers said he had long wanted to apologize, but the legal system wouldn't let him.

Nancy Koschman said she accepts his apology, and that the case, which was reopened by a special prosecutor in 2012 after an earlier investigation did not lead to charges, was never about jail time or revenge.

"I know it's as difficult for him to stand up there as it was for me. I know didn't go out to hurt David that night. It never was about hurting David that night. As his lawyer said, for one brief second, both our lives changed dramatically," Nancy Koschman said.

Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said while probation is the typical punishment in so-called one-punch cases, he felt jail time had to be part of any plea deal.

"Mrs. Koschman did not ask for jail time. She told me, she said, 'I don't need another mother without her son.' But I felt that because of what happened here that some jail time was important," Webb said.

Webb said this should have taken place years ago. Part of his mission and the special investigation was to determine if Vanecko received special treatment from police and prosecutors because of who he was, to whom he was related. That part of Webb's report has been under seal for months. It will not result in any indictments, but a lot of that information may now be released, Webb said. Webb will go to the judge on Monday to see if the judge will allow for that.

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