Curtis Milsap just got the biggest check of his life — $100,000, delivered by Federal Express and signed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Milsap, a former Chicagoan now living in rural Mississippi, is one of 57 people to receive reparations from the city of Chicago as a result of the Jon Burge police-torture scandal.
He plans to use the money to open a restaurant with his sister, Beverly, serving “Chicago-style” food, like gyros and pizza puffs.
“This is a blessed day,” Milsap said on receiving the check. “I’m glad some kind of justice was served.”
Emanuel announced a week ago the city would start mailing checks as torture reparations, calling the payments a “moral reckoning to right a wrong.”
Fifty-two of the torture victims will get a full $100,000 share of the city’s $5.5 million reparations fund. The rest will see their earlier legal settlements subtracted from their checks.
Milsap said the reparations are a step toward justice for people abused in police custody.
The city has paid a total of more than $100 million to people who sued over claims they were tortured while being questioned by Burge, the notorious former police commander, and his detectives.
Milsap, 44, said he moved to Mississippi to escape the dark memories the city held for him after he was acquitted of involvement in three 1991 killings.
Milsap said he was tortured while in police custody in connection with two separate fatal drive-by shootings in Englewood. He said he refused to confess or to implicate co-defendant Terrance Brooks, who was convicted of murder and is serving a life term.
“They said, ‘You are going to tell us what we want to hear,’ ” he said. “They wanted me to say Terrance Brooks was going around shooting people, killing people. And I told them, ‘No, I don’t know that.’
“I was handcuffed to a file cabinet and was kicked in my testicles. I was slapped repeatedly by one officer here and one officer there.”
Milsap’s medical records show he was sent to the hospital for injuries to his testicles in August 1991. He said he received treatment for about six months while in jail.
He was found “not guilty” after 2½ years in jail awaiting trial.
Last year, Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a political activist and former Gangster Disciples enforcer, told Milsap, a longtime friend, about the torture reparations fund.
In June, Milsap came back to Chicago to seek a share of the $5.5 million the Chicago City Council earmarked for people who have evidence they were tortured by Burge and detectives under his watch between 1972 and 1991.
On Sept. 14, Milsap got a letter from Daniel Coyne, a faculty attorney at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, saying he was eligible. Milsap’s claim had been sent to the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials organization and the city for final consideration, the letter said.
The city’s reparations ordinance also provides for job training for Burge victims and free tuition at the City Colleges of Chicago for them, their immediate family and their grandchildren. Milsap said he didn’t know of the college benefit until a reporter asked him about it last week.
“My son is going to college in August,” he said of 19-year-old Curtis Milsap Jr. “He studies theater. Maybe he could go there.”
Life hasn’t been easy for Milsap since he was released from jail in 1994. He’s been unemployed and uses a wheelchair because of a car accident that happened soon after he was freed.
“But this makes me pretty happy right now,” Milsap said.