Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who last month received a 6-year, 9-month prison sentence for the murder of teenager Laquan McDonald, has been assaulted by prison inmates in his cell in Connecticut, his wife said Wednesday.
Van Dyke was transferred earlier this month to a federal prison in Connecticut. Hours after his arrival, he was placed in the general population before being assaulted in his cell. His wife, Tiffany, is planning to hold a news conference, tentatively scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, to protest the attack on her husband.
“We are all petrified and in fear for Jason’s life,” Tiffany Van Dyke told the Sun-Times. “Jason just wants to serve his sentence. He does not want any trouble. I hope prison officials will take steps to rectify this right away. He never should have been in the general population.”
Van Dyke was transferred on Feb. 5 from an undisclosed Illinois state prison to the federal prison in Danbury, Conn. His family and attorneys didn’t find out about the transfer until a day or two later, according to a family source.
While jailed in Illinois, Van Dyke was kept in isolation and had no issues with other inmates. However, on Tuesday, during a conversation with his lawyers, Van Dyke told them he had been beaten up by other inmates four hours after arriving at the prison. He said he had been put in the general population and attacked in his cell.
On Wednesday, Van Dyke’s attorneys received an anonymous call from an employee at the Connecticut prison, who gave more details about the beating and said he was worried about Van Dyke’s safety.
Van Dyke was convicted in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the 2014 slaying of McDonald.
Last month, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke to 81 months in prison.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court seeking a new sentencing hearing for Van Dyke.
Gaughan chose to sentence Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder count, finding it to be the more serious crime, not the aggravated battery counts, which potentially carry more serious prison time.
That decision meant Van Dyke could serve only about half the sentence under good-time provisions — and potentially leave prison after a little more than three years.
Raoul and McMahon argue Van Dyke should have been sentenced for aggravated battery, meaning he would have been forced to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.
While transferring an Illinois prisoner to a federal facility out of state is unusual, it’s not unheard of.
Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, was transferred to a federal prison in Indiana in 2017, with state prison officials citing security reasons. Peterson was convicted of the murder of his third wife as well as trying to hire someone to kill the Will County state’s attorney.