Special Prosecutor's Investigation Concluded But Contents Temporarily Sealed
The special tprosecutor investigating how prosecutors and police handled the investigation of David Koschman's death has concluded the statute of limitations prevents any prosecutions of actions taken in 2004 by the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and that there is insufficient evidence to prove any state criminal law violations by police working the case more recently.
On Wednesday, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, the special prosecutor, filed a 162-page report explaining the evidence gathered in a review of more than 22,000 documents and in interviews with 146 witnesses. At Webb's request, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Toomin placed the report under temporary seal to insure that publicity about its contents does not impair the fairness of the upcoming trial of Richard J. Vanecko.
Vanecko faces trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Mr. Koschman. As a result of the first stage of Webb's investigation, a Cook County Grand Jury in December issued an indictment against Vanecko, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
The contents of Webb's report are to be released to the public at the conclusion of Vanecko's trial. Webb's work was spurred by a December 2011 suit filed on behalf of Mr. Koschman's mother, Nanci, and his aunt and uncle. The family was represented by attorneys from the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the People's Law Office in Chicago.
Although the report is under temporary seal, "reading between the lines" of Webb's statement is the fact that wrongdoing was discovered but that it cannot be prosecuted, said Locke Bowman, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center.
"What seems very clear to us is that the special prosecutor, in effect, is saying that in 2004 there was criminal misconduct and that there is evidence from which a reasonable fact-finder can conclude that there was criminal wrongdoing," Bowman said.
"This is not a surprise to us," Bowman said. "When Mr. Vanecko was charged some months ago, it was clear at that time that something had gone terribly wrong in the investigation into David Koschman's death. According to the police version of the investigation into his death in 2004, Vanecko was absolved. If Vanecko is now charged with a crime, then it's clear that something went terribly wrong in the investigation that took place in 2004.
"It's also clear from the report that although there may not be proof beyond a reasonable doubt of police misconduct in 2011, that nonetheless there are serious concerns about wrong-doing at that time," Bowman said.
Bowman acknowledged that there may be grounds for sealing the report until the jury in the Vanecko case has reached its verdict.
"More than anything, Nanci Koschman wants to see justice done on behalf of David and on behalf of the citizens of Cook County," Bowman said. "There's no doubt that there are legitimate concerns about Mr. Vanecko's fair trial rights. Indeed, the special prosecutor points out himself that the evidence in this sealed report is so powerful and so potentially damning that it could generate sufficient public controversy to impair Mr. Vanecko's rights."
Bowman also emphasized that the sealing must be temporary and said the public has a need to know what was learned during Webb's investigation.
"It may be there are no police or prosecutors who at this point can be criminally charged with wrongdoing," he said. "That does not end the public discussion.
"There are questions that Nanci Koschman and all of us need in order to bring closure to this incident," Bowman said. "We need to know why it was that this investigation was derailed. We need to know who called who and when, and we need to know the facts and circumstances that resulted in a bogus investigation."
Special Prosecutor Issues Report in the Matter of the Death of David Koschman, (pdf), Release from Dan K. Webb, Special Prosecutor for Cook County
Motion to Temporarily Seal Special Prosectuor's Report, (pdf), Dan K. Webb, Special Prosecutor for Cook County
Order, (pdf) Michael P. Toomin, Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County
Editorial: No charges in Koschman case, but still plenty of stink, Chicago Sun-Times
Editorial: Clout and the Koschman case, Chicago Tribune
No New Indictments in Koschman Case, Special Prosecutor Says, Ward Room blog, NBC 5 Chicago
Updated - 09/23/13
Special Prosecutor Indicts Nephew of Former Chicago Mayor in Death of David Koshman
The Roderick MacArthur Justice Center’s pursuit of justice for the family of David Koschman reached a watershed in December with the announcement that a Cook County Special Prosecutor had charged a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in connection with Koschman’s death.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, appointed to investigate the case after RMJC successfully petitioned for an independent probe into Koschman’s death, indicted Richard J. Venecko for involuntary manslaughter. Vanecko is a nephew to former Mayor Richard Daley, Cook County Board Commissioner John Daley, and Bill Daley, former Chief of Staff to President Barak Obama.
The indictment came more than eight years after Koschman died from trauma he sustained after Vanecko, then 29, punched him outside a Chicago bar. Eyewitness testimony and a re-opened police investigation concurred that Venecko delivered the blow – the only punch exchanged between the two men who didn’t know each other – that caused Koschman’s death.
But Venecko was never held accountable by Chicago Police or the Cook County State’s Attorneys Office, raising concerns that his political connections deterred authorities from conducting a thorough investigation. Those concerns mushroomed into an outcry after the Chicago Sun-Times published a series of investigative reports into glaring irregularities in the way police and prosecutors conducted the probe. Propelled by the Sun-Times coverage, David Koschman’s mother, Nanci, asked RMJC to help her ferret out the truth.
“Nanci Koshman has said for years that she is interested, more than anything else, in having an understanding of what happened to cause the death of her son more than eight years ago,” said RMJC Legal Director Locke Bowman. “The filing of these charges is the beginning of the process that will lead to some of answers.
“But many questions linger in the wake of today’s indictment,” Bowman continued. “The first of those questions is why has this taken so long? What caused this investigation to drag out for so long? And did this delay have anything to do with the fact that the defendant was a member of the most powerful political family in Cook County? We’re gratified that Special Prosecutor Webb has vowed to pursue answers to these questions, as well”
In a news release announcing the indictment, Webb said that his probe into potential wrongdoing in the original Koschman investigation will continue "at a vigorous pace."
The indictment and Webb’s ongoing investigation are the result of an effort RMJC began in late 2011 to convince the Circuit Court of Cook County that an independent review of the case was warranted. That request was granted in May by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Toomin. In authorizing the appointment of the Special Prosecutor, Toomin wrote that the “system has failed” David Koschman, and to deny [RMJC’S] request would “cap indignity with injustice.”
Nanci Koshman said the indictment represented the first crucial step toward rectifying that injustice. “It’s a good day,” she said. “I wanted David’s name cleared. I’m going to finally go tell David tomorrow that he can be at peace.”
Updated - 12/12/12
Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate the Homicide of David Koschman
In an historic ruling on Friday, April 6, Judge Michael Toomin disqualified State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and ruled that a special prosecutor would be appointed to investigate the death of David Koschman as a result of a blow struck by Richard J. Vanecko, nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Judge Toomin did not mince his words: "The system has failed [Koschman] up to this point," he said. "To deny the request [for a special prosecutor] would be to cap indignity with injustice."
In December 2011, the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center filed a petition on behalf of Koschman's family calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought in the homicide of Koschman, alleging that the investigation into Koschman's death may have been influenced by Vanecko's relationship to Daley.
"There are occasional moments when we can be truly proud of our judiciary, truly proud of our system, and this is one such moment," said Locke Bowman, attorney for the Koschman family and legal director of the Justice Center. "The appointment of a special prosecutor is the first step to correcting an injustice and proving that everyone, regardless of status or class, is equal under the law."
David Koschman died in May 2004 after he and Vanecko engaged in an argument on a sidewalk near Division and Dearborn in Chicago during which Vanecko punched Koschman in the face, causing Koschman to fall and strike his head on the pavement. Koschman died 11 days after the assault from complications from blunt head trauma.
The petition to appoint a special prosecutor alleged that irregularities in the investigation, including false official records and missing files, require an independent investigation into whether individuals in the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office may have obstructed the investigation. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor but says she will not appeal the decision.
This is the second time in 10 years that a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate a case in Cook County. A special prosecutor was last appointed in 2002 to investigate claims of police torture under former Area 2 Police Commander Jon Burge. The petition to appoint a special prosecutor in the Burge torture cases was also spearheaded by the MacArthur Justice Center.
Channel 7 coverage of Judge Toomin's decision: Special prosecutor ordered in Daley nephew case (video)
Chicago Tribune story: Judge Oks special prosecutor in Koschman case
Sun-Times opinion pieces:
- Mark Brown: David Koschman closer to justice than I ever thought possible
- Editorial: Time to stop defending shabby Koschman probe
Updated - 04/10/12
MacArthur Justice Center Files Petition to Appoint Special Prosecutor in Koschman Homicide
The Roderick MacArthur Justice Center filed a petition calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought in the homicide of David Koschman against Richard J. (R.J.) Vanecko, former Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew. The petition, filed on behalf of Koschman's family, alleges that the investigation into Koschman's death may have been influenced by Vanecko's relationship to Daley.
The petition alleges that in the early morning hours of April 25, 2004, David Koschman and R.J. Vanecko engaged in an argument on a sidewalk near Division and Dearborn in Chicago during which Vanecko punched Koschman in the face, causing Koschman to fall and strike his head on the pavement. Koschman died 11 days later from complications from blunt head trauma. His death was ruled a homicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner.
According to the petition, irregularities in the investigation, including false official records and missing files, require an independent investigation into whether individuals in the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office may have obstructed the investigation.
The petition was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Chicago Sun Times story: Koschman mom: Fighting for son, 'want him to know I did everything'
5 NBC Chicago: Petitioners Explain Koschman Filing
Chicago Sun-Times editorial: Judge should heed a mother's fair plea
Updated - 12/20/2011