Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Burge, Guilty At Last.
Lt. Jon Burge, a decorated former Chicago police lieutenant accused of suffocating, shocking and beating confessions out of scores of suspects was convicted Monday of federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying about the torture.
He will remain free on bond until his Nov. 5 sentencing, when he faces up to 45 years in prison.
For decades, dozens of suspects - almost all of them black men - claimed Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
Burge was charged with lying about the alleged torture in a lawsuit filed by former death row inmate Madison Hobley, who was sentenced to death for a 1987 fire that killed seven people, including his wife and son, and pardoned by Ryan.
Hobley claimed detectives put a plastic typewriter cover over his head to make it impossible for him to breathe. Burge denied knowing anything about the "bagging," or taking part in it. The indictment against Burge never said Hobley was tortured, but that Burge lied with respect to participating in or knowing of any torture under his watch.
Burge testified in his own defense at the four-week trial, denying he ever physically abused suspects or witnessed any other officers doing so. Prosecutors presented testimony from five men who said Burge and officers under his command held plastic bags over their heads, shocked them with electric current and put loaded guns in their mouths during the 1970s and 1980s to elicit confessions.
The testimony of those men echoed what others have long said: Black men suspected of crimes didn't leave interrogation rooms at Chicago's Area 2 police station until they told detectives what they wanted to hear.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said it was sad that it took until 2010 for it to be proven in a courtroom that torture once occurred in Chicago police stations. More than 100 victims have said the torture started in the 1970s and persisted until the 1990s at police stations on the city's South and West sides.
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men from death row in 2003 after Ryan said Burge had extracted confessions from them using torture. The four later reached a $20 million settlement with the city.
Burge was fired from the police department in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of a suspect, but he never was criminally charged in that case or any other, leading to widespread outrage in Chicago's black neighborhoods. The community anger intensified when Burge moved to Florida on his police pension and his alleged victims remained in prison. It wasn't immediately clear how Monday's verdict would affect the pension.
Burge never deserved a pension. He should have been in jail decades ago. It was common knowledge that Burge was a abusive, torturer. So, he got to enjoy most of his life free but hopefully he will spend the rest in prison where he sent so many innocent men.