A former Chicago Police superintendent and the top aide to Richard M. Daley when he was Cook County state’s attorney have given conflicting accounts about Daley’s response to torture allegations that only he can resolve by giving a deposition, according to a new court filing.
An attorney for Stanley Wrice, who has filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the city, is seeking to question Daley to resolve a “significant contradiction” in the testimony of former Supt. Richard Brzeczek and that of Richard Devine, who served as Daley’s first assistant state’s attorney. Devine later served as Cook County state’s attorney from 1996 to 2008.
Devine has testified that Daley investigated torture claims involving former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his crew, but Brzeczek has said he wasn’t aware of any investigation.
In the past, judges have ordered Daley — who was state’s attorney from 1981 to 1989 and Chicago’s mayor from 1989 to 2011 — to answer questions from attorneys in lawsuits against the city over torture by Burge and his detectives. But in those two lawsuits, the city settled before Daley was forced to give a deposition.
Wrice’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, wants to question Daley in a federal lawsuit alleging that Burge’s detectives tortured Wrice into confessing to a 1982 rape.
In late 2013, Wrice was freed from prison after serving more than three decades behind bars for that crime. A judge overturned his conviction, saying there was no doubt that detectives had beaten him. But a different judge later refused to grant Wrice a certificate of innocence, saying there was still “substantial evidence” that he “actively participated” in the sexual assault.
Bonjean is asking the court to let her question Daley about another man, Andrew Wilson, who claimed he also was tortured by Burge and his detectives in 1982 about six months before Wrice was arrested and interrogated by Burge’s crew.
Wilson was convicted of killing two police officers and died in prison in 2007 while serving a life sentence.
In December, Devine gave a deposition about the Wilson case. Devine said he and Daley learned in a letter from Brzeczek that Wilson was physically abused while in police custody.
In his deposition, Devine said he discussed the letter with Daley and others in the state’s attorney’s office and to the best of his knowledge, Daley launched a special investigation into the matter, according to Bonjean’s filing in federal court on Tuesday. Devine didn’t know what happened with the probe and believed Daley made all the decisions regarding the Wilson matter, the filing says.
Devine also testified that prosecutors at the time believed the officers who took Wilson into custody — the “wagon men” — had caused Wilson’s injuries, and not the interrogating detectives.
Brzeczek also gave a deposition about the Wilson case on May 12.
He confirmed that he notified Daley about the evidence of physical abuse, but was unaware of any later investigation launched by Daley’s office into the torture allegations, according to Bonjean.
Bonjean contends that she needs to depose Daley to resolve Brzeczek’s and Devine’s accounts. The city, according to court filings, opposes Bonjean’s effort to question Daley.
Wilson, who was on parole for armed robbery in 1982, claimed he was shocked, burned by a radiator, smothered with a plastic bag, kicked in the eye and beaten while he was interrogated in the slayings of the officers.
He was convicted, but still won a lawsuit against the city claiming he was tortured during his interrogation. Most of the $1 million judgment went to his lawyers, with the rest going to the family of one of the slain officers.
Although Daley has avoided testifying in Burge-related lawsuits, he spoke about the Wilson case in 2006 with Cook County special prosecutors investigating dozens of allegations of torture by Burge’s crew. The special prosecutors released a report later that year outlining what they learned about Daley’s involvement in the Wilson case.
According to their report, Brzeczek said he sent a letter through regular mail to Daley detailing Wilson’s injuries, but Brzeczek said he never heard back from Daley.
In his 2006 interview with the special prosecutors, Daley said he assumed that letter was directed to Devine and assumed that Devine had told him about it, but Daley said he didn’t have a “current memory of how the letter was processed.” Daley said he “was probably advised as time passed that the [Cook County state’s attorney’s] Special Prosecutions Unit had contacted Wilson’s attorney and had been thwarted in efforts to determine the actual basis for the observations” of the injuries to Wilson.
Also in 2006, Daley made public comments saying he was willing to “apologize to anyone” for torture under Burge, but the ultimate responsibility rested with the police department.
“They did follow up. They did interview people. They did talk to people,” Daley said of his state’s attorney’s office at the time of the Wilson interrogation. “[But] you need cooperating people.”
“A lot of facts are coming out now. This is 20 years later — or more. A lot of facts are coming out completely different from then,” he said in 2006.
“I’ll take responsibility for it. I’ll apologize to anyone. Yes, I would. There’s nothing wrong with that. It should never have happened. And [with] the procedures and policies we have [put] in place, it will never happen again,” Daley said, referring to videotaped interrogations in murder cases and other reforms.
Burge was fired over the torture allegations and later went to federal prison for lying about torture in a civil case. By some estimates, lawsuits stemming from Burge-related torture have cost the city nearly $100 million, including settlements, judgments and lawyers’ fees.
Contributing: Fran Spielman