Tired of sitting on “the sidelines,” a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley is fighting a mother’s request for a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the death of David Koschman, who died after a punch police say the nephew threw.
Lawyers for Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko filed papers Monday asking to intervene in the case because Nanci Koschman’s lawyers suggested in a court filing last week that Vanecko may have confessed to striking the Mount Prospect man during a drunken confrontation in the Rush Street area on April 25, 2004.
Minutes after Koschman’s four friends were unable to identify Vanecko in a lineup, the friends say an unidentified detective told them they knew who had punched Koschman, according to sworn statements they gave to the Chicago inspector general’s office. One witness recalled being told that man was “bawling his eyes out. … He didn’t mean for one punch to lead to all this.”
Vanecko’s attorneys say he never confessed and didn’t talk to the police or a prosecutor who was present at the lineup on May 20, 2004.
“The allegation of ‘a confession’ is a complete and utter fabrication wholly devoid of credibility or grounding in reality,” Vanecko’s attorneys, Terence P. Gillespie and Marc W. Martin, wrote in three separate court filings.
“I can unequivocally state that Mr. Vanecko was not in a room ‘bawling his eyes out,’ did not ‘apologize to detectives,’ did not ‘confess’ or make any substantive statements, admissions or implied admissions to law enforcement personnel,” Gillespie said in an affidavit.
Attorney Locke Bowman, who is representing Nanci Koschman, responded, saying “We stand by the accuracy of every statement in our memorandum.”
Cook County Judge Michael P. Toomin is set to hear oral arguments at 2 p.m. Thursday in Nanci Koschman’s request that a special prosecutor be appointed to reinvestigate the case and determine whether the police or the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office are guilty of “official misconduct” for failing to charge Vanecko, who ran away after throwing the punch that led to Koschman’s death 11 days later.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is fighting the Koschman request, arguing that there’s no reason her office cannot continue an ongoing reinvestigation along with the city’s inspector general.
Vanecko’s attorneys are asking the judge to allow them to fight the Koschman petition.
“While Mr. Vanecko has remained on the sidelines, that stance must change,” they wrote. “A court order appointing a special prosecutor . . . would render Mr. Vanecko the subject of an extraordinary grand jury investigation conducted by private counsel.
“The petition for appointment of a special prosecutor should be denied.”
Koschman’s death was listed as an unsolved homicide until early last year, when a Chicago Sun-Times inquiry prompted the police to take another look at the case. They closed the case on March 1, 2011, determining that Vanecko punched Koschman but did so in self-defense without seeking criminal charges from Alvarez.
Vanecko’s attorneys in court papers accused the Sun-Times of being on a “witch hunt” and blasted the newspaper for last Thursday’s front-page headline: Did R.J. Confess?
“If that newspaper bothered to pick up the phone and call me . . . I would have told them they’re nuts. Nothing like that ever came close to happening,” Gillespie told WGN-TV Channel 9.
The Sun-Times called Gillespie’s office and emailed him and his partner last Wednesday. There was no answer at the law office, and the lawyers didn’t respond to the email. They did not respond to the Sun-Times’ requests on Monday either.