The special prosecutor’s report on the Chicago police torture scandal is expected to be issued shortly, perhaps in a matter of days. Special prosecutor Edward Egan has uncovered 192 victims (there may well be more) claiming to have been abused by Jon Burge and detectives serving under him from the 1970s into the 1990s, scores of them not identified in any published list. The scale of criminality is immense: hundreds of assaults (most victims were subjected to more than one attack), hundreds of acts of misconduct qualifying as felonies. Some detectives, called to testify in various proceedings, may have committed perjury on five or more occasions in a single case.
And knowledge of the abuse traveled up the ranks: Police superintendents were informed of the torture and knew the identities of some of the torturers. State’s attorneys were informed of the torture, and no one was ever prosecuted. Now that the statute of limitations has run on many if not all of these crimes, state prosecution is unlikely, though victims’ attorneys hold out hope that federal charges are possible.
All of the known victims are black. Some were sent to death row on the basis of tortured confessions and perjured testimony by police, and many are still serving long sentences. All of their confessions are suspect.
Most of the accused police officers are white. Many have been promoted or have retired with pensions. Some of the prosecutors informed of the torture are now judges. One serves on the Illinois Appellate Court. And one is the mayor.
The Reader has reported at length on various aspects of this scandal since 1990, when we were the first to disclose that a torture gang had been operating at the south side’s Area Two headquarters. Here, in an attempt to provide some context in advance of the report’s publication, is a breakdown of officers and officials who have some role in the scandal.
Burge, a south-side native, may have learned to torture in Vietnam, where he served in 1968 and ’69. Veterans of his company have reported that they participated in the electrical torture of Vietcong suspects, shocking them using hand-cranked field telephones. A similar device was used to shock suspects at Area Two. Both places, the torturers often targeted the genitals. (For more detail, see the Reader’s “Tools of Torture,” February 4, 2005.) Burge became a police officer in March 1970. Promoted to detective at age 24 in 1972, he was assigned to Area Two, his old neighborhood and an area experiencing rapid racial change: whites were fleeing as African-Americans moved in. The first publicly known complaint of electric shock interrogation at Area Two dates from 1973. In the years that followed Burge was promoted and served in other locations, then returned to Area Two in 1981 as commanding officer of the Violent Crimes unit.
Burge’s slow undoing can be traced to the 1982 arrest of Andrew Wilson for the shooting deaths of two police officers. Wilson’s account of electric shock, some of it aimed at his genitals, didn’t provoke a response from the Cook County state’s attorney, Richard M. Daley (“Deaf to the Screams,” August 1, 2003), but in 1987 the Illinois Supreme Court, suspicious of Wilson’s many injuries, granted him a new trial. He was convicted a second time without the use of his confession and sentenced to natural life. (See “House of Screams,” January 26, 1990, and “The Shocking Truth,” January 10, 1997.)
In 1989, during Wilson’s federal civil rights suit against Burge and the city, anonymous letters addressed to Wilson’s attorneys at the People’s Law Office said that he wasn’t the first person to be shocked at Area Two. Eventually the PLO compiled a list of 105 African-American men who told not only of being shocked but of suffocation with plastic bags and typewriter covers and other forms of torture and abuse inflicted by Burge and detectives under him at Areas Two and Three.
Instruments they described included a hand-cranked electrical device, a cattle prod, and a violet ray machine (also known as a shock wand), a medical instrument now sold as a sex toy. (See “Tools of Torture” and “The Mysterious Third Device,” February 4, 2005.)
Dismissed from the police force in 1993 but never charged with any crime, Burge lives in Florida, collecting a police pension.
OTHER ACCUSED OFFICERS
Has known Burge since childhood and admitted to being his “right-hand man” at Area Two. Accused of cattle prod torture and numerous attacks aimed at genitals. Left CPD after he got his law degree but subsequently disbarred for taking money from clients–including police officers and firefighters–for whom he did no work, an ethical lapse he attributes to clinical depression. He collects a police pension and works as a private investigator.
Accused of torture, often with John Byrne. Named in 17 of the PLO’s list of 105 cases, accused of mock execution, electrical torture, suffocation, and beatings with flashlights and phone books. Promoted to lieutenant by Superintendent Terry Hillard in 1998 despite being named a “player” in an internal police investigation of torture in 1990. Retired, pension intact, from the force, he now works for the Cook County sheriff. (For more on Dignan see “Shot in the Dark,” November 6, 1998.)
Burge’s partner in the early 1970s, and named as a participant in the first publicly known use of electric shock in 1973. Commander of Internal Affairs when data on police personnel gathered by software program Brainmaker–in order to identify problem officers–was erased. Later became assistant deputy superintendent, now retired. Granted immunity from prosecution in Burge scandal by special prosecutor Edward Egan.
KNEW ABOUT IT
As police superintendent in 1984 received report from the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) on allegations of electrical torture made within the previous 12 months. The document, compiled by OPS supervisors, mentioned Burge and three incidents from Area Two–not including the Andrew Wilson case and others that occurred earlier–in addition to allegations of electric shock in Districts 1, 9, 11, 14, 19, and 20. Subsequently gave Burge a double promotion–from lieutenant, skipping the rank of captain–to deputy commander. In 1992 testified as character witness for Burge at Police Board hearings, saying he had no regrets about the promotion.
Burge’s supervisor as commander of Area Two in 1983, during which time torture continued. As superintendent of police in 1990 received two OPS reports on torture at Area Two: one concluded that Wilson had indeed been tortured with electric shock, the other stated that physical abuse was “systematic” at Area Two under Burge’s command and that it “included psychological techniques and planned torture.” Sat on these reports for more than a year, finally ordering administrative hearings, which resulted in Burge’s dismissal in February 1993. Now chief of investigations for Cook County medical examiner.
As high-ranking assistant state’s attorney failed to ask brothers Andrew and Jackie Wilson if their confessions had been given voluntarily, a highly unusual mistake for any experienced prosecutor but particularly one interviewing a cop killer. Did he have evidence of torture in February 1982? If he did and if he’d exposed it then, would the torture have ceased? Took the Fifth before the Burge grand jury. May be the John Doe now asking the Illinois Supreme Court to block publication of the special prosecutor’s report. (See “What Does John Doe Know,” June 9, 2006.)
Richard M. Daley
More than 50 men alleged that they were tortured by Burge and his detectives during Daley’s term as Cook County state’s attorney, from 1981 to 1989. He was put on notice several times, most dramatically in the case of Andrew Wilson. Photographs of Wilson’s stitches, burns, and alligator-clip wounds made compelling evidence in court, underlined by Hyman’s failure to ask if Wilson had given his statement voluntarily. Received copy of letter from Dr. John Raba, who as medical director of Cermak Hospital examined Wilson’s injuries, urging police superintendent Richard Brzeczek to investigate. Brzeczek told Daley he had promised to investigate all cases of police brutality but did not want to jeopardize Wilson’s prosecution and asked for guidance. Daley sent no reply. Mayor of Chicago since 1989.
As Cook County state’s attorney from December 1990 to December 1996 had far more information than Daley that a torture ring had been in operation at Areas Two and Three, and on his watch torture continued at Area Three. By March 1994 even the city’s own lawyers had admitted that torture had taken place at Area Two. Prosecuted no one. Currently serving on the Illinois Appellate Court.
First assistant state’s attorney under Daley when Wilson and more than 20 others were tortured. Went into private practice in 1983, and in 1989 briefly represented Burge in Wilson’s civil suit. Also profited from his firm’s million-dollar defense of Burge and fellow detectives, paid for by the city. After taking the office of state’s attorney in December 1996 he fought victims’ appeals relentlessly and moved to quash the petition to appoint a special prosecutor despite clear conflict of interest. Before clearing death row in 2003, Governor George Ryan pardoned four Burge victims, saying not only that they had been tortured but that they were innocent, a clear rebuke to Devine and other prosecutors. Devine denounced the pardoned men as “evil.” Serving third term as Cook County state’s attorney.
Terry Hillard, Thomas Needham, and Gayle Shines
In 1998, while serving as general counsel to police superintendent Terry Hillard, Needham learned that outgoing Office of Professional Standards chief Gayle Shines had reopened nine investigations into the Burge gang’s torture of suspects, that charges had been sustained in some of those cases, and that after Shines left her post the documents, critical to the defense of some men sentenced to death, had been found boxed up in her office, gathering dust.
In a 1999 deposition, Needham said he didn’t read the files but instead looked at the names of the accused, the findings, and the dates of the investigators’ activity. On August 31, 1998, he issued a memo saying that all the charges in all the cases would be regarded as “not sustained,” a move supported by Superintendent Hillard. In his deposition Needham said it wasn’t fair to the police department to do otherwise. “No organization can operate effectively if they’re continually looking back,” he said. “Healthy organizations have to move forward.” Those particular files were later released as a result of a federal lawsuit in which the Reader intervened.
Hillard, also deposed in 1999, was asked about the Goldston report, the 1990 OPS report that concluded that torture was a regular occurrence at Area Two and named “players.” Hillard replied, “I don’t know nothing about the Goldston report.”
Needham is now an attorney in private practice. Shines heads an investigations and internal audits department at Chicago City Colleges. Hillard retired as superintendent in August 2005.
TOOK THE FIFTH (OR INTEND TO)
Three officers are known to have been granted immunity from prosecution by the special prosecutor: Michael Hoke, Commander Patrick Garrity, and former detective Daniel McWeeny. Garrity is not considered a regular member of the Burge gang but does figure prominently in the case of Madison Hobley, one of four victims pardoned by Governor Ryan. McWeeny appears more regularly, sometimes as the detective who comes in after the torture to take the victim’s confession.
The names of other officers who have testified before the Burge grand jury have not been revealed, but court records list the names of police officers who participated in arrests and interrogations. Many have been deposed in the last few years in active civil suits and other proceedings related to the torture of suspects. Under questioning, the vast majority took the Fifth. They’ve likely also been subpoenaed to appear before the special prosecutor’s grand jury. The 26 officers and former officers listed below have either invoked their Fifth Amendment privileges when questioned about the torture or declared their intention to do so in documents related to ongoing civil suits. According to People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor, nine more officers have taken the Fifth, but their depositions are under seal.
Former assistant deputy superintendent Michael Hoke
Former commander Jon Burge
Commander Patrick Garrity (granted immunity)
Former lieutenant Peter Dignan
Former lieutenant Dennis McGuire
Former sergeant John Byrne
Sergeant Raymond Madigan
Detective Robert Dwyer
Detective Edmund Leracz
Former detective Leonard Bajenski
Former detective Ronald Boffo
Former detective Michael Bosco
Former detective Joseph Danzl
Former detective Joseph DiGiacomo
Former detective David Dioguardi
Former detective Robert Flood
Former detective Fred Hill
Former detective Anthony Katalinic
Former detective James Lotito
Former detective William Marley
Former detective Thomas McKenna
Former detective Raymond McNally
Former detective Daniel McWeeny (granted immunity)
Former detective John Paladino
Former detective William Pedersen
Former detective James Pienta
DIDN’T TAKE THE FIFTH
Richard Brzeczek, police superintendent when Andrew Wilson was tortured, freely answered the special prosecutor’s questions. The rest of the officers listed here are African-Americans who in depositions have said they suspected torture but were not part of the circle that was inflicting it.
Former superintendent Richard Brzeczek
Former sergeant Doris Byrd
Former detective Melvin Duncan
Former detective William Lacey
Former detective Bill Parker
Former detective Walter Young
CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT
Victims’ lawyers don’t expect the special prosecutor’s report to contain indictments. They speculate that Egan will say that the statute of limitations precludes state charges, and that the prosecutors’ job was made extremely difficult when so many witnesses–police officers, former prosecutors, and perhaps even sitting judges and active prosecutors–took the Fifth rather than testify before the grand jury.
But Egan’s report may provide the pry bar needed to get new trials. It may also lead to federal prosecutions for civil rights violations, violations of the RICO statute, and possibly perjury. The key audience for the report, after an investment of four years and millions of dollars, may be the U.S. attorney, the person who can make a case for prosecutions on the federal level.
For a complete archive of John Conroy’s Reader articles on the scandal go to chicagoreader.com/policetorture.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/St. Petersburg Times, Bill Stamets, courtesy of the People’s Law Office, courtesy of Chicago Tonight/WTTW, AP/Wide World Photos, AP/Stephen J. Carrera, AP/Charles Bennett, AP/Charles Dharapak.