Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel believes it's time the city closes the book on one of the ugliest and most notorious chapters in its history: the Jon Burge torture cases.
During his tenure at the Area 2 violent crimes unit, former police commander Burge is believed to have personally administered and overseen the torture of hundreds of suspects, extracting confessions from mostly young black suspects. He and investigators under his supervision chained victims to hot radiators, beat them with telephone books to avoid leaving obvious bruises, electrocuted their genitals, and suffocated them with plastic typewriter cases.
Burge was sent to prison earlier this year relating to the torture allegations. But he wasn't convicted of the attacks -- the statute of limitations had expired on those allegations. Instead, he was sentenced to a four-and-a-half year prison term for perjury, after he testified in a civil suit years before that he had no knowledge of the torture.
A short sentence for lying didn't seem like justice for many of Burge's victims and their families. Michael Tillman, for instance, spent 24 years in prison for a rape and murder that physical evidence exonerated him of. He claims he was waterboarded with 7-Up, and punched until he vomited blood, before he confessed to the crime in 1986. He was freed early last year.
Tillman is now suing the city of Chicago for recompense, as are many other victims. The city settled with four alleged torture victims to the tune of $19.8 million in 2007, but many cases remain unresolved.
Mayor Emanuel is now hoping to settle those cases, according to a Tuesday report in the Chicago Sun-Times. "We have a future to build -- not a past to settle. That's what I look at," he told the paper.
By moving to settle, Emanuel is also protecting an old friend: his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Last week, a judge in the case ruled that Daley could be included as a defendant in Tillman's case, for his role in the cover-up of the torture allegations. But if Emanuel settles the case, Daley won't have to take the stand and answer for his part of the disastrous scandal, NBC Chicago writes.
Emanuel has also said that the city will have to pay for Mayor Daley's legal defense in the case, due to city ordinance -- an uncomfortable position that could also be dodged through a settlement.
Between legal fees and settlements, the Burge case has cost the city of Chicago $43 million to date. So far, there's no estimate of what settling all the outstanding cases would cost.