"Today is a victory for every poor person": Jon Burge found guilty
June 28, 2010 5:52 PM   Subscribe

It took a few decades, but today a federal jury has found former Chicago police commander Jon Burge guilty on all counts of perjury and obstruction of justice in covering up his knowledge of and participation in the systematic torture of suspects in the 1980s. (Previously.)

Following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said, "These sorts of things that happened in 1982, 1985, being punished 25, 28 years later, that's not a full measure of justice. On the other hand, the sense that finally there's a verdict… that a jury found beyond a reasonable doubt, all 12 of them, that this happened, should be some measure of justice to recognize and reckon with history, that we need to have it on the record that this happened." Even so, complex legal and political issues remain, both for Burge's victims as well as for the city of Chicago.
posted by scody (26 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Patrick Fitzgerald gets the goods.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:58 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sadly, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are immune to this kind of accountability.
posted by darkstar at 6:13 PM on June 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

So a US Attorney is aggressively pursuing those that torture?


I guess that means... (oh. no it doesn't).
posted by el io at 6:30 PM on June 28, 2010

In closing arguments, Burge's attorney told the jury that Burge did what the jury would want him to do with the suspects that he tortured, in addition to calling them rats and garbage in an attempt to deflect attention from the issue at hand.

I rather suspect that Burge's defense helped the jury reach the verdict that they did.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2010

For those who are not locals: they only went after Burge with 5 cases, of the low estimation of 110 known cases. This bit by John Conroy (blog) lists the great many other reported/alleged crimes, including torture by electric shock (22 cases) suffocation by typewriter cover or plastic bags (23 cases) mock executions and gun threats (15 - most frequently, this terrifying act took the form of “Russian roulette”) Beatings with a flashlight (13), wih a phone book (13), with a nightstick (6) and so on. Many of the attacks were on the genitals (36), by shocking, kicking, or striking with an object, while on 6 occasions, the victim was choked or gagged. Some victims where burned with radiators.

The whole time the Chicago police did nothing. The only real action the police took was firing Burge in 1993, but left him his pension which he was, until today, enjoying in Florida. And the department still fights having any real external oversight - yet they have demonstrated time and again an inability to deal with "bad apples" (which this case clearly isn't) or with systematic, years long, unit wide torturing (which this case is).
posted by zenon at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

For those who are interested, John Conroy — who wrote about Burge's torture for many years for the Chicago Reader before being laid off a few years ago — has been blogging the trial.
posted by enn at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

yeah, he's gonna appeal, and be granted bond--probably a signature bond. guy won't have to check in to the hotel california.

there won't be any justice here. just looks like it on the surface.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:01 PM on June 28, 2010

Daley should be next.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:24 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can still thank Metafilter for my favorite description of Pat Fitzgerald EVER.

I knew before I clicked which comment that would take me to.
posted by EarBucket at 8:27 PM on June 28, 2010

Oh the head of a criminal torture ring! He should be going to maximum security prison then, right? In general pop? Right? Right?
posted by clarknova at 8:30 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bye bye!
posted by Ironmouth at 8:30 PM on June 28, 2010

I am with Lester on this one; happy to see this, but until we start seeing life sentences and death penalties completed in cases like these, it's still all a big godless joke, a show trial at best.

Still, as I ask about Sheriff Joe: in 30 years, not ONE of these people, often gang members and criminals, had a hardcore crackpipe hitting relative with nothing to lose who could "fix the glitch"?
posted by hincandenza at 8:36 PM on June 28, 2010

zenon and enn, thanks for the additional links -- great additional info that shows how hideous and pervasive the abuse was.
posted by scody at 8:42 PM on June 28, 2010

I am with Lester on this one; happy to see this, but until we start seeing life sentences and death penalties completed in cases like these, it's still all a big godless joke, a show trial at best.

So general population in maximum security will have to do for now? Wink wink?
posted by clarknova at 9:23 PM on June 28, 2010

I remember working for this chick in Chicago, Phylis Applebaum at this messenger service. She had all the City of Chicago's messenger related business locked up and they were even outsourcing courthouse and other city work to her as well. Easily millions of dollars a year worth of business. And guess who sat on the citizen review board and helped decide whether the cops went to far? Why the same businesswoman and friend of Daley who was making millions from the city. That's the Chicago way!
posted by jake1 at 10:09 PM on June 28, 2010

Speaking of Patrick Fitzgerald, here's an article about another case he's working on, but in this one he's investigating human rights lawyers who may have exposed CIA interrogators from Guantanamo: How human rights advocates investigating torture ended up snooping on the CIA—and in hot water with the feds.
posted by homunculus at 11:19 PM on June 28, 2010

Meanwhile, on Second City Cop... they seem to be implying that he shouldn't have been convicted because his victims were criminals.

I remember reading that site when it showed up on the blue In the comment thread about Chicago cops murdering people, and realizing "Oh, everything bad people say about cops is true". I read that site for a week and decided all cops should be forced to wear video cameras that record to a secure remote storage when on duty because nothing else will possibly bring these people into line.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:14 AM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

from wikipedia:
Daley, at the time the Cook County State's Attorney, has been accused by the Illinois General Assembly of failing to act on information he possessed on the conduct of Burge and others. Daley has acknowledged his responsibility to be proactive in stopping the torture, but denies any knowledge which could have made him responsible. On July 19, 2006, US Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. issued a press release calling Mayor Daley culpable, possibly even criminally culpable, for his failure to prosecute until the statute of limitations had run out. Jackson called for an investigation to determine if there was any planned delay to allow the cases to expire.
posted by garlic at 7:06 AM on June 29, 2010

Wow. I love this guy (Fitzgerald). I had no idea there existed government officials who aggressively try to do the right thing. My confidence in this country is seriously buoyed by this guy.
posted by cmoj at 8:54 AM on June 29, 2010

I'm relieved, but, like a lot of us around these parts, I feel it doesn't change anything. It doesn't mean enough. He tortured people and he will never be tried for those acts. He will never stand punishment for his most serious crimes; instead he's just a perjurer, who did not cooperate with the Feds.

Burge and his officers also ignored civil rights. They instilled in the CPD the idea that police just "know" who is guilty and what they are guilty of. They also fostered the culture that police aren't there to investigate, or think, or examine evidence, or talk to human beings but instead police can just make up their investigation or beat people into agreeing because they are cops and they know what's what. They didn't just sicken the system with violence and deceit, but they poisoned it as a truth-seeking mission.

And people still are not getting a fair day in court because of the taint. I had an appeal a few years ago on a procedural error--that means one of the attorneys did something wrong at trial (in my case, it was a jury qualification issue)--but we never got to see the appeal all the way through, we never got a retrial because one of the cops had been a Burge crony and the State's Attorney just dropped the case. Technically, my client was never convicted (because his original conviction was never final), but he was never vindicated.

I'm glad Burge was convicted of something. That he doesn't get to live out the rest of his life, in retirement, far away, in a place where no-one knows that he is a despicable person who felt above the law and above decency. And I am glad that some of the truth is coming out. But the damage remains.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:38 AM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

This isn't just Burge - Chicago residents: I would suggest an independent civilian oversight board. More than 10,000 complaints of police abuse were filed with Chicago police between 2002 and 2004, and the department substantiated only 124 and a mere 19 resulted in meaningful disciplinary action. In Chicago complaints for excessive force and brutality are 94% less likely to be substantiated than in other urban departments, (the national average for urban departments was 8%, CPD is less than .5%). Summary report here with more info.

And the local tv news claimed Burge has cost the city around 50$ million so far, a tally likely to continue to increase. crush-onastick is right - it ain't justice and worse, all this money bleeding eventually comes out of pockets of Chicago residents.

Grimgrin - Second City Cop demonstrates to me how completely dysfunctional the Chicago Police Department is - how far past the pale must a cop be for them to break the silent blue line? Where are all those good cops I always here about? Why are they silent, or is that not the kind of "hero" they are? (ie: The kind that does what is actually right.)

jake1 - do you mean Phyllis Aplebaum?
posted by zenon at 11:13 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Where are all those good cops I always here about? Why are they silent, or is that not the kind of "hero" they are? (ie: The kind that does what is actually right.)

Head on down to your local library and find a copy of Serpico by Peter Maas. It's the true story of what happened when an honest cop tried to do the right thing, and it very lucidly lays out why doing so is a form of suicidal insanity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:02 PM on June 29, 2010

What crush-onastick said. The frustrating part, especially reading the brownshirted comments on that second city cop site brazenly supporting the actions of Burge, is that a cop who does the things Burge and his fellow gang members did is triply harmful: the actual physical harm itself, as well as the corruption of the legal cases eliciting potentially false confessions (by the way... are the 5-110+ people convicted using these forced tortured confessions still all in prison? That wasn't answered in the links), not to mention that these actions completely undermine the very system of justice we attempt to create.

No non-police officer criminal ever does remotely as much damage as a corrupt cop- much less a corrupt cop who tortures and kills- and yet like Bush/Cheney Bruge and his people will never really face any consequences. They'll smirk and laugh and have their boosters crow that they're fighting the "tough" fight.

And all the police, every last one in every last city, are indistinguishable from another street gang, except unlike most gangs they aren't a dangerous subgroup, they're mainstream. They're running an extortion racket on the taxpayers and law-abiding citizens, using threats of violence to ensure a steady stream of six-figure salaries, whopping pensions, shiny cars, and an unchecked license to kill that would make James Bond green with envy.
posted by hincandenza at 12:03 PM on June 29, 2010

I don't understand why this man is being persecuted for torturing random potentially innocent people years before Jack Bauer made it cool.

No, wait. Yes, I do. He's a monster and it's sad that they only had enough to get him on what amounts to the tip of the iceberg in terms of incidents.

Hopefully the severity of the sentence will match the severity of the crime.
posted by sparkletone at 1:24 AM on June 30, 2010

Zenon - yep. That's her. It was a little more than 10 years ago that I worked at Arrow Messenger Service but the memory of that woman will stick with me forever. And it was always kind of sickening that such a callous and greedy person should be made rich off of public money while at the same time perpetuating the hold of Daley and Company over Chicago. But that city is like that. For those who don't know, the democrats in Chicago outnumber the republicans so badly that the republicans don't even seriously run candidates for citywide offices. That means all of the real action takes place in the democratic primaries and a lot of shit can be handled behind closed doors with other party people. And Mayor Richard Daley, the Archie Bunker of mayors is holding the reins of what's left of the last serious political "machine" in this country. Now as an elected official in Chicago, every contract you hand out to a vendor and every city job you dole out to a brother in law means that that person owes you and better not forget it. Campaign funds and assistance (down to actually knocking on doors) are pretty much expected and gifts are seldom refused. Add to this the fact that a democratic presidential candidate needs the Chicago machine to deliver Illinois and you have obsequious national democrats who wouldn't dream of siccing the FBI or an emboldened US Attorney on the local Dems (or mafia for that matter). Every few years they'll sting a few of the black aldermen just to show some scalps, but everyone who cares to know knows who the real crooks are. So yeah, its possible to have a DA who uses the testimony and evidence of a cop recognized by Amnesty International for torturing confessions out of suspects and when confronted with the evidence of this, continues to use said officer's testimony and evidence. And when this DA becomes mayor of the city his father ruled for decades with a meaty iron fist and the shit about said officer hits the fan, he can not only keep this cop out of jail, but also hook him up with a nice pension. And again, while fulfilling her civic duties on various public advisory boards, the lovely Phylis Aplebaum and other preferred vendors of the former DA can pretty much be counted upon to represent the views of this less than charismatic yet tremendously powerful former DA. Still, a helluva town!
posted by jake1 at 10:21 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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