Frank Avila was also at the County Building on the first day for filing nominating petitions. But he wasn’t there as an election-law lawyer (though he is one, specializing in defending independents). And he wasn’t there as a candidate (though he has made two unsuccessful runs for commissioner of the Water Reclamation District). He was there as the host of Election 2007, a public-access show on CAN TV.
Standing in the corner of the filing room, a microphone in hand and his longtime producer Tony Judge behind the camera, Avila cornered candidates for interviews, including powerhouse aldermen Ed Burke and William Banks. But his most pointed question was directed to long-shot mayoral candidate William “Dock” Walls in reference to Jon Burge, the former police commander fired for using torture to coerce confessions from crime suspects. After witnessing former CHA executive director Terry Peterson file Mayor Daley’s nominating petitions, Avila asked Walls how any black political leader could in good conscience stand behind the mayor. After all, when Daley was state’s attorney he paid next to no attention to allegations of Burge’s torture. “If there were hundreds of Jewish me or gay men who had been tortured, would you see any Jews or gays standing behind Daley?” Avila asked.
“Any good person, black or white, should not stand with Mayor Daley because of this issue,” Walls responded. “Civil rights issues transcend race.”
Avila has more than a passing interest in this matter. He’s currently representing Aaron Patterson , one of Burge’s victims, in his civil suit against the city and recently added Daley’s name as a defendant in the case.
“I don’t want to appear insensitive to angry groups,” Avila told me after his interview with Walls. “But clearly if this had happened to gays or Jews, no gay or Jew would stand by Mayor Daley. I’m not naive–many of thepeople who were tortured were bad people who were not innocent of crimes. But I still believe that in the United States of America we don’t put guns in people’s faces or electorcute their testicles or burn them on radiators or suffocate them with typewriter covers. These were all allegations that were brought to Daley’s attention when he was state’s attorney, and he did nothing about them.”
Avila contends that Daley overlooked the allegations because he was trying to bolster his reputation as a lock-’em-up law-and-order prosecutor with a high conviction rate. “Look, your guy [Reader staff writer John Conroy] took the time to investigate,” said Avila. “He was writing stories about this years ago. If Conroy investigated, why didn’t Daley?”