Anita Alvarez says Van Dyke guilty verdict is ‘just’

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Anita Alvarez, who was state’s attorney when the Laquan McDonald tape was released, says the Jason Van Dyke verdict is “just.” | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Sneed exclusive . . .

One of the most chilling chapters in Chicago’s history — the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald — began with three main characters.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

Former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

After the verdict Friday convicting Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke of the second-degree murder of McDonald four years ago, McCarthy and Emanuel released typically antiseptic statements peppered with emotional words including very little of what actually went down.


But in an exclusive interview with Sneed, Alvarez stated:

“I am happy with the verdict. It’s a just verdict. It took a long time coming. We started this investigation a day after we got the video [dashcam footage of the shooting of McDonald], and we received the video two weeks after it happened.”

Alvarez not only defended the way she handled the case from the get-go — which was to bring the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI into the probe — but was hurt by comments made by McDonald’s great-uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, who once claimed the first order of business was to get rid of Alvarez because he felt she was hiding the tape.

“It’s the furthest thing from the truth,” said Alvarez.

“I never hid any tape. What I did was immediately enlist federal prosecutors in the FBI to investigate this case.”

One of Alvarez’s former top prosecutors told Sneed: “In the grand political playbook of Chicago cover-ups, you are not going to find a chapter that instructs the person who wants to do the cover-up to involve the feds.”

“If you are trying to cover something up in Chicago politics, you do not bring in the feds as your first step,” he added. “So the fact that there are people out there like the uncle who actually believes that is sad and frustrating, because nothing can be further from the truth.”

Alvarez also feels McCarthy did “everything he could to neutralize Van Dyke. He couldn’t fire him due to the union contract. I believe he did everything within his power to take him off the street. He did the maximum he could do.”


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Does Alvarez regret not charging Van Dyke before she released the video?

“I don’t think I do. As a prosecutor you’re following the rules, right? You’re bound by the rules and one of the things these rules tell us is that we are not supposed to release evidence.

“So, I mean, I don’t think any prosecutor is quick to start releasing videos before an investigation is completed,” she said.

Sneed: Could you have acted sooner to charge Van Dyke?

Alvarez: “It was an active investigation and there was a lot being done, and I felt we were almost there. We took a lot of time to interview a lot of people, and I think it’s pretty clear that these cases are not easy cases to do, to try, and are not the easiest cases to charge. So this was a way to get the amount of time that was necessary to get everything in order.”

Sneed: So now that this happened, what do you think would be a fair amount of time for Van Dyke to serve in jail?

Alvarez: “I won’t even comment on that.”

Sneed: What about Rahm, though? He is an enigma to me in all of this. Do you know at what juncture he saw the tape?

Alvarez: “We don’t know. I didn’t talk to Rahm Emanuel about this investigation. I do not know when he saw it. These are questions I can’t answer. Before the case was even filed they voted for a settlement [for the McDonald family] at the City Council. They have the answers.”

So what is Alvarez, a sports fan, doing now?

“Consulting. Coaching trial scenes. I’ve gone to a lot of White Sox games, and I’m glad the Blackhawks home opener is Sunday,” she said.

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