Judge Steps Aside In Daley Nephew Case

Prosecutors want judge from outside Cook County to preside over case

After disclosing ties to former Mayor Richard Daley, the judge randomly assigned to the case against Daley nephew Richard "RJ" Vanecko stepped aside Monday.

Prosecutors in turn called for a judge outside of Cook County to preside over the case.

Vanecko, the namesake of two mayors named Daley, was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the 2004 death of David Koschman. He entered a not-guilty plea last week.

"The appearance of justice is as important as its reality," Judge Michael Toomin said, quoting Justice Antonin Scalia.

"The overriding perception of the public does truly measure propriety and impropriety," Toomin said. "That's why he recommended someone from outside Cook County try this case.

Judge Arthur Hill, a former prosecutor and high-level supervisor under Daley in the state's attorney's office, went on record last week disclosing his numerous connections with the former mayor. Daley promoted Hill several times, he said, and appointed him to the Chicago Transit Authority board. Hill also disclosed that while he was an attorney in private practice, he worked on municipal bond transactions for the city.

Though Hill said he believed he could be fair and objective in the case, attorneys requested a different judge.

"We understand," Vanecko attorney Tom Breen said, "but with all the arrows that have been thrown at the defense, at no fault of its own, we feel the the Cook County bench could handle this case on its own."

The motion now goes to Chief Judge Timothy Evans who will then ask the Supreme Court for a decision.

Kent College of Law professor Richard Kling said a judge from a different venue should have been a first choice, not a second one.

"The issue is never the fairness of Cook County judges," he said. "The issue is the perception on the part of the public."

Kling said a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court could take just a matter of weeks.

Koschman, a 21-year-old man from Mt. Prospect, was out on Division Street in the wee hours of the morning when the group he was in ran into Vanecko's group. A lone punch was thrown. Koschman died 11 days later from head injuries after not recovering consciousness.

Chicago police never interviewed Vanecko, witnesses failed according to police to identify him in a lineup. Police concluded, though only one punch was thrown by Vanecko, that the cause of the altercation was self-defense.

Toomin this year called that analysis a "fiction" created by police and ordered a special prosecutor be put on the case. That prosecutor, Dan Webb, announced the charge against Vanecko two weeks ago.

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