A judge questioned Thursday how the police concluded that Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, acted in self-defense when he delivered a deadly blow nearly eight years ago, noting that five witnesses have given sworn statements denying that the victim, David Koschman, was physically aggressive.
“Certainly, none of these statements lend credence to that conclusion,” Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin told a lawyer for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who’s fighting a Koschman family petition seeking to have a special prosecutor investigate the case. “There’s utterly no evidence he was physically aggressive. Where does the claim of self-defense have its genesis?”
Jack Blakey, the state’s attorney’s special prosecutions chief, said “we have conflicting evidence” about Koschman’s behavior.
Toomin will rule April 6.
The judge rejected a request from Vanecko’s lawyers to intervene in the case, saying he’s deciding only whether the case should be reinvestigated by an outside authority, not whether Vanecko should be charged.
Koschman’s mother, Nanci Koschman, sat in the front row of the courtroom, often crying. Her attorney, Locke Bowman, argued that an outside prosecutor is needed because one of Alvarez’s prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough evidence to charge anyone in 2004. Bowman also argued that Alvarez has been a political ally of Vanecko’s uncle.
Toomin pressed Bowman on whether political ties are enough to remove Alvarez from the case. Bowman said there’s a perception Alvarez hasn’t “zealously” pursued the case to avoid offending the Daley family.
Koschman, 21, died on May 6, 2004, 11 days after being punched in the face in a drunken confrontation with Vanecko on Division Street. A Chicago Sun-Times investigation last year prompted the Chicago Police Department to re-examine the case. The police concluded Vanecko acted in self-defense.
The Sun-Times has reported the police found “missing” files last summer, including a handwritten note that read “V DAILEY SISTER SON.” Toomin asked Blakey about that.
“Even if you draw the most sinister conclusion, it points to corruption in the Police Department, not the state’s attorney’s office,” Blakey said.
The sworn statements Toomin cited were made to the City of Chicago’s inspector general, who began investigating the police after the Sun-Times reported that witnesses questioned the statements the police attributed to them. Alvarez has joined in that investigation.
After the hearing, Nanci Koschman said, “I just really want to see justice for David.”