CITY HALL — A $20 million fund would be set up for torture victims of notorious Police Cmdr. Jon Burge under a proposal put forth in Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Saying he was out to address the "scourge of Burge," Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) proposed the ordinance along with Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who formerly worked on behalf of Death Row inmates, some of whom had been tortured by Burge.
According to the People's Law Office and the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project, Burge and his subordinates, known as the "midnight crew," tortured more than 120 African-American men and women with electric shock, mock executions, suffocation and beatings in the '70s and '80s.
G. Flint Taylor, co-founder of the People's Law Office, explained how the $20 million figure was arrived at, saying, it was equal to what the city "has already paid out in 'pinstripe patronage' to defend Jon Burge, Richard Daley and their confederates."
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley was Cook County state's attorney at the time of much of the Burge-associated torture in the '80s and has been named in that capacity in suits against the city.
If adopted, the ordinance would also call on the city to issue a formal apology to survivors, provide free enrollment to them in city colleges as well as counseling and health care, create a commission to administer the reparations and require Chicago Public Schools to teach a history lesson about the cases.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a public apology on Burge last month and urged the city to move on.
"The city cannot move on until it fully reckons with the harm and damage caused by these racist torture practices," said Joey Mogul of the People's Law Office and the Chicago Torture Memorial Project.
Anthony Holmes, one of Burge's earliest known torture victims, said the ordinance would address those like him.
"Burge tortured me with electric shock and suffocation in 1973, and as a result I did 30 years in prison," Holmes said at a City Hall news conference Wednesday.
Holmes added he "was a witness against Burge at his perjury trial, but I have never received one penny in compensation because of the statute of limitations."
"I now work delivering newspapers. The ordinance will bring some amount of financial justice to me and many other survivors," Holmes said.
Holmes said he was mistakenly convicted of murder thanks to a confession he signed after being tortured, and he eventually served his entire 30-year sentence. The statute of limitations expired on his case, meaning he couldn't pursue exoneration in the courts, like later Burge victims.
Taylor called Holmes "the poster child for this ordinance." Mogul said dozens of other Burge torture victims were in similar circumstances.
Burge was never convicted of torture, due to the statute of limitations, but is now serving a federal perjury sentence for lying about the torture. Holmes testified on behalf of the government in that case.
The proposed ordinance was assigned to the Finance Committee. Brookins suggested it could be funded through revenues from speed cameras.
"The administration finds this past behavior abhorrent and has worked diligently to settle and resolve cases from the Burge era with the goal of closing that dark chapter in the city's history," said mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander. "We are also open to exploring additional ways of reaching that goal and assisting confirmed victims, and we will talk with members of City Council about their ideas."