Tiffany Van Dyke demands answers on husband’s prison transfer

A tearful Tiffany Van Dyke on Thursday demanded answers as to why her husband was transferred — without her knowledge — from an Illinois state prison to a federal facility in Connecticut, where he was beaten by other inmates in his cell earlier this month.

“I am calling on the governor. I’m calling on the attorney general. I’m calling on all the officials within the state and federal prison system to let me know. I’m demanding reasons,” Van Dyke said during a news conference at attorney Dan Herbert’s office. “I’m demanding answers as to why they took my husband from a state facility and put him in a federal facility.”

The Sun-Times first reported Wednesday that Jason Van Dyke had been attacked in a cell Feb. 7 at a federal prison in Connecticut.

It’s unclear why Van Dyke was transferred. Representatives from the attorney general’s and governor’s offices did not respond to inquiries.

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections said: “Jason Van Dyke has been transferred out of IDOC custody under the terms of the Federal Intergovernmental Agreement. For safety and security purposes, the Department does not discuss details of those transferred under this agreement. No further information is available at this time.”

Tammy Wendt, one of Jason Van Dyke’s attorneys, said the former Chicago police officer suffered injuries to his face and head but couldn’t say to what extent.

“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,” Wendt said.

A spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Prisons would not provide specifics on the attack, only saying that Jason Van Dyke suffered “minor injuries.”

Tiffany Van Dyke said she hasn’t spoken to her husband since Jan. 18 when he was sentenced to 81 months in prison by Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan.

“I don’t know how safe he is. I don’t know the extent of his injuries,” Tiffany Van Dyke said. “At the end of the day, I want my husband home. I want him to be safe. I don’t need people to go into his cell and attack him. The next time this could happen, they could kill him. I cannot bury my husband.”

Defense lawyer Steve Greenberg, who counts former Bolingbrook Police Sgt. Drew Peterson among his clients, said that Jason Van Dyke will endure a different experience even for a high-profile defendant.

Peterson, convicted of the murder of his ex-wife Kathleen Savio, was moved from state custody to a federal prison over safety concerns, but Greenberg said the incidents where Peterson was threatened had more to do with standard “hazing” by other prisoners than with Peterson’s fame or past as a police officer.

“For Jason Van Dyke, it’s different because of who he is and who he killed. He’s a white police officer who killed a black teenager,” Greenberg said. “Unless you put him in a prison full of white supremacists, he’s going to have problems as long as you leave him in general population.”

The news of Jason Van Dyke’s attack comes as Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Joe McMahon, who prosecuted Van Dyke, challenge Gaughan’s sentence.

A jury in October found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Gaughan chose to sentence Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder count, finding it to be the more serious crime.

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 contend Van Dyke should have been sentenced for aggravated battery, meaning he would have been forced to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.

Raoul and McMahon also said the judge should have sentenced Van Dyke on each of the 16 aggravated battery counts. That’s an argument that threatens to boost Van Dyke’s potential prison stretch to a virtual life sentence.

Asked about Raoul’s and McMahon’s efforts, Tiffany Van Dyke said the two should “Leave it alone.”

“Let him serve his time and do what they’ve already given him,” she said. “The judge was right in doing what he did. I’m OK with the sentence he got. My husband’s OK. We know there’s a future for my husband at the end of this. There was light at the end of the tunnel.”

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