Chicago's Torture Cop Awaits His Sentence

By Muwakkil, Salim | In These Times, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Chicago's Torture Cop Awaits His Sentence


Muwakkil, Salim, In These Times


G. FLINT TAYLOR SHOULD BE BASKing in the glow of vindication as he awaits the January 20 sentencing of Jon Burge, the retired Chicago police commander convicted for lying about a ring of torturing cops he led.

A federal jury found Bürge guilty on two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury last june. Taylor and the firm he co-founded, the Chicago-based Peoples Law Office, have represented several of the more than 100 black men victimized by Burge's torture corps and have been trying to bring the rogue cop to justice for more than 20 years.

"Burges' conviction was a significant victory for the community, particularly the African-American community," Taylor says. "It was also an important win for the forces fighting for human rights and racial justice in this country." However, the lack of attention to other aspects of the torture case frustrates the veteran attorney.

For many years, suspects and activists charged that Burge was operating a "black site" of torture at police district Area 2 on Chicago's far South Side. In 1993, those charges gained enough credibility to get Bürge fired, but that just allowed him to retire on a police pension in Florida.

Growing complaints forced a 2006 investigation of Burge by a Cook County special prosecutor that found evidence of systematic torture of black suspects through techniques like electro-shocks to the genitals, beatings, burning skin on radiators, Russian roulette, suffocations, and mock executions. Despite that, the prosecutor refused to indict Bürge because the statute of limitation had run out on torture charges.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald did an end-run around the statute of limitations by charging Burge with perjury and obstructing justice, instead of actual torture. Fitzgerald successfully used the ex-cop's deposition from a 2003 lawsuit in which he denied knowledge of torture.

In court papers filed in early November, federal prosecutors announced they are seeking at least 24 years in prison for the 62-year-old Burge. However, under federal sentencing guidelines, the federal probation office has recommended 15 to 21 months. His lawyers are seeking probation, noting that Bürge is 62 and suffering from prostate cancer.

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