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Burge Torture Costs City $12.3 Million in Latest Settlements

By Ted Cox | September 6, 2013 3:01pm
 Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton discuss the latest Jon Burge settlements before Friday's Finance Committee meeting.
Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton discuss the latest Jon Burge settlements before Friday's Finance Committee meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The Finance Committee approved $12.3 million in settlements Friday in the latest two cases of police torture involving disgraced former police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

The measures have been sent to the full City Council for final approval next week.

According to Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton, it was a "significant milestone" in that it settled the last of the eight cases the Emanuel administration inherited involving notorious Area 2 Cmdr. Jon Burge, although he warned aldermen, "I'm not gonna tell you this saga is over yet."

The latest settlements would award $6.15 million each to Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, co-defendants in the 1988 murder of two women and their three children. Both were convicted after what courts later determined was a false confession by Kitchen following torture to both.

They served 21 years each in prison, 13 years on death row, before Cook County courts dismissed the charges in 2009 and awarded both certificates of innocence.

Patton said the settlements were "cost-effective" in that both originally sought $19.5 million, and the city's attempt to mount a defense was crippled by the stated intention of Burge and his "midnight crew" colleague John Byrne to take the Fifth Amendment.

"We're not gonna defend torture or abuse," Patton said.

"Why is it that we can't cut Jon Burge off at the knees?" Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said on his continuing police pension, even as he serves a federal sentence for lying about the torture.

Patton said city lawyers are pursuing a case to halt his pension, now before the state Supreme Court.

Patton said this all but closed the eight Burge cases the Emanuel administration inherited, as two are in their final court proceedings. All stemmed from incidents of torture in the 1980s. One case filed since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office two years ago is still pending, but Patton warned 17 other incidents have been confirmed by the state Torture Commission, with cases still possible.

"I'm sure we're going to be sitting here for other cases," said Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who said he met Kitchen 14 years ago when Moreno was working against the death penalty, sometimes marching outside City Hall with a banner reading, "Burge = Torture."

"When will this merry-go-round stop?" Austin said.

"At some point," Patton said.

Community activist Wallace "Gator" Bradley of United in Peace testified that the settlements were in part motivated by a desire to protect former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney at the time many of the Burge torture incidents took place.

"It's deeper than the torture. It's the cover-up of the torture the city is paying for," Bradley said. "The city keeps paying because they don't want Daley to be on the stand."

Along with Burge, Byrne and other officials, the state's attorney was named as a defendant in the Kitchen suit.

The Finance Committee also approved a $1.98 million settlement in a class-action suit filed by women who failed a physical aptitude test in trying to qualify for Fire Department positions. Women had an 81 percent failure rate on the test, according to Patton, which men passed 90 percent of the time. That too stemmed from the Daley administration, although the suit was filed shortly after Emanuel took office.

Patton said the settlement limited damages from the $10-$12 million originally sought. He said the department had since altered the test to one approved by the International Association of Firefighters, and the department is looking to increase its percentage of women on the force from 2.8 percent to something closer to the national average of 4.3 percent through academy classes graduating this year and next.