If all goes as expected, Jon Burge, the former Chicago police commander whose name will forever be linked to police torture, will walk out of a North Carolina federal prison Thursday morning. He is expected to serve out the remaining three-and-a-half months of his sentence at a Florida halfway house.
Burge, 66, has spent just over three-and-a-half years in federal prison. He was convicted in 2010, not of torture but of perjury when asked if he knew of any suspect who was tortured.
Cop killer Andrew Wilson was among the first to allege torture in 1983. Photos after his arrest show Wilson suffered injuries to his face.
In the following years more than 100 suspects, virtually all African-American, said they too were tortured by Burge or men under his command at Area 2 police headquarters. Allegations of torture ranged from electro-shock to a person’s gentiles to placing a typewriter cover over a person’s head, making them think they would suffocate.
Darrell Cannon was another who said early on he was forced into a confession. In a 2010 interview he recounted how an officer under Burge’s command placed a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Cannon believed the shotgun was loaded.
“It seemed like the hair on the back of my head stood straight up,” Cannon said as tears came to his eyes.
Burge’s trial at the federal building lasted a month. He took the stand and said what he has always said, that ne never tortured a confession out of anyone.
Rick Beuke, one of Burge’s trial attorneys, still maintains Burge’s innocence.
“I don’t think Jon ever resorted to using torture to get evidence in any of the cases he was involved with,” Beuke said.
But David Weisman, a former assistant United States Attorney who led the prosecution team, has no doubts.
“I don’t have any question about it,” Weisman said, noting that the statute of limitation had run on charging Burge with torturing suspects in the 1970’s and 80’s.
“He lied on a civil case under oath. Those charges were available and were vigorously pursued,” Weisman said.
Attorney Flint Taylor with the People’s Law Office, Burge’s chief nemesis over the years, said the torture cases cost Chicago taxpayers millions.
“When you bring in the pensions that have been paid as well as the lawyer’s fees that have been paid and the settlements to date, it has cost the city well over $100 million,” Taylor said.
Burge’s release comes as another police commander---Glenn Evans---fights charges that he stuck a gun in a suspect’s mouth. Evans has pleaded not guilty to aggravated battery and official misconduct.
In announcing Burge’s indictment, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said it was not the end of the federal investigation into what happened at Area 2. But Burge was the only one in the so-called Midnight Crew ever charged. He leaves prison with a $36,000 a year pension, the end of a controversial chapter in Chicago law enforcement.
Burge’s conviction said Weisman “reiterates a point that good law enforcement is law enforcement that follows the rules.” Taylor argues there are many questions yet unanswered into what happened during the torture years, about who knew what and when did they know it.
Burge is expected to fly from North Carolina to Tampa and report to a halfway house not far from where he had resided after being fired by the Chicago Police Department in 1993.
But in doing so, Rick Beuke expects his former client to look ahead and not behind. “Tough man and no apologies to anyone for anything and that’s the way he’s gonna go out,” Beuke said.
Burge’s official release date is Valentine’s Day, 2015.