COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The three Chicago police officers who were indicted last month for their suspected roles in an alleged cover-up of the Laquan McDonald shooting pleaded not guilty Monday.
Former Chicago Police Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney were arraigned on charges of conspiracy, misconduct and obstruction of justice. Anti-police violence activists and officers sat in on the arraignment.
Judge Diane Cannon — who took over the case after Judge Mary Brosnahan recused herself Monday — set bail at $50,000 for each, but they were released on their own recognizance.
The three men were indicted June 27 after an investigation led by special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes, a former judge who in 2016 was tasked with investigating the Police Department officers who were on the scene with Jason Van Dyke the night he fatally shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014.
Attorney Tom Breen, who is representing Walsh, said after the arraignment that the case has been "extremely difficult" for the former officer.
"All we're hoping for at the end of the day is we receive a fair hearing, and I think we are very confident that Mr. Walsh will be acquitted of these charges," Breen said.
Walsh's attorney, Breen, says the case has been difficult and "emotionally charged." pic.twitter.com/72jrOZOZZO— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) July 10, 2017
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Prominent community leaders and activists — including the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who said the officers lied and should go to jail — called for justice after the arraignment. The speakers said they would trust the criminal justice system but carefully watch the case.
"We cannot have one set of laws for everybody else and then the Police Department or police officers have their own set of laws," the Rev. Leon Finney said. "We seek only justice."
Other activists said the case had not gone far enough. Will Calloway, who pushed for the release of a video showing McDonald's death, called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to be investigated, saying they hid the video in a bid to help Emanuel's re-election prospects.
Kofi Ademola, a member of Black Live Matter Chicago, said he wants more officers to be held accountable in police brutality cases — something that rarely happens, he said.
"Officers protect each other. This is the 'blue code.' This is the practice and pattern. This is something that we are trying to challenge because we don't have transparency, we don't have police accountability," Ademola said. "We're hoping with this trial that these three officers will finally see some justice."
.@KofiAdemola says officers protect each other but activists hope they can see justice. pic.twitter.com/OmybsIIBLj— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) July 10, 2017
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Holmes said last month her investigation is ongoing. More officers may be charged.
Van Dyke, 39, is free on bond on charges of first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery with a firearm. He was charged in November 2015, shortly after a Cook County judge ordered the release of dash-cam footage in the controversial shooting.
Prosecutors allege March, Walsh, Gaffney and Van Dyke (identified in last month's indictment only as "Individual A") conspired immediately after the Oct. 20, 2014, slaying "to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of LaQuan [sic] McDonald ... to shield their fellow officer [Individual A] from criminal investigation and prosecution."
March, Walsh and Gaffney are accused of "mischaracterizing the video recordings" of the shooting and lying about McDonald's behavior before the incident, according to Holmes' office.
The next court date for the three is Aug. 29.
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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson moved last fall to have Van Dyke and several other officers fired over allegations they lied after the shooting of McDonald.
The teen had been stealing truck radios and was armed with a 3-inch blade on Oct. 20, 2014, when Police Department officers in Archer Heights called in a radio request for a Taser, prosecutors have said. An autopsy found that McDonald had PCP in his system.
Van Dyke and his partner responded to the call, but never specified whether they had a Taser. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Van Dyke pulled his gun and emptied his magazine into McDonald, shooting him 16 times.
Video of the shooting, which was released via a court order in November 2015, sparked citywide protests that shut down the Mag Mile.
READ THE INDICTMENT HERE: