Torture Case History Worth Thinking About

By Steve Rhodes
|  Thursday, Oct 23, 2008  |  Updated 10:26 PM CDT
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'Burge Report' Confirms Chicago Police Tortured Suspects

There are some details to be gleaned deep in the coverage of the Jon Burge torture allegations that are worth pondering.

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Burge Testifies in Civil Trial

Chicago police Commander Jon Burge testifies in a 2004 civil trial, invoking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to answer questions about allegations of police torture.
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Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge is out on bail but the story of his prosecution is just starting -- a quarter century after rumors first surfaced about torture in a South Side police station. While a new round of recriminations revs up, there are some details to be gleaned deep in the coverage that are worth pondering.

* "Burge told the court he travels to Las Vegas as a security consultant for trade shows," the Sun-Times notes in its main report.

I wonder if we'll find out just which trade shows were willing to hire such a notorious figure.

* "A handful of principled men and women did stand up," the Sun-Times says in its editorial today. "Among them were five aldermen who wrote a letter last year to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald urging him to prosecute Burge for obstruction of justice -- exactly what he now has done. Those aldermen are Bob Fioretti (2nd), Pat Dowell (3rd), Billy Ocasio (26th), Ed Smith (28th) and Helen Shiller (46th)."

That means that 45 aldermen did not sign on to the letter. Nor did the mayor.

* John Conroy wrote more than 100,000 words for the Reader about Burge and police torture between 1989 and last December, when he was laid off in a round of budget cuts, Mark Brown notes. "It would take him an entire year to produce that first story," Brown writes. "He has lost track of how many he has written since."

You can read 'em all here in the Reader's torture archive.

* Of all the people for John Kass to run into outside the federal building yesterday, he ran into Angelo Torres, "the former Daley aide born on Taylor Street who was mystically promoted into running the bribe and scandal-ridden mayoral Hired Truck program out of the mayor's office."

Kass goes on to write:

"Torres was convicted on federal charges and served his time. We chatted, and I asked Torres the big question: Who promoted you? It was Daley, right?

"'Oh, come on,' Torres said, laughing. 'Come on.'

"When Torres was indicted, the mayor said he didn't know who promoted him. That was 1,506 days ago."

We still don't know and the mayor says he doesn't care. But he did make sure to note on Tuesday that he didn't promote Burge. He just prosecuted his cases as state's attorney.

* Burge's home in Apollo Beach, Florida is "a $154,000 white house with coral shutters on Flamingo Road," according to the St. Petersburg Times. "Outwardly, Jon Burge is an average guy in this waterfront town."

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