Lt. Denis Walsh, a key Koschman cop, quits in face of firing
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Lt. Denis Walsh has resigned from the Chicago Police Department one week after interim Supt. John Escalante moved to fire him over his role in the 2011 reinvestigation of David Koschman’s killing — a case that was closed without charges against a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Walsh’s resignation ends the disciplinary case that Escalante filed against him with the Chicago Police Board, which decides punishments for cops.
Walsh, who had been suspended without pay, can now retire and begin collecting a pension of as much as $90,000 a year, records show.
Escalante had accused Walsh of violating eight departmental rules — including “making a false report,” “inattention to duty” and “incompetency or inefficiency” — regarding the Koschman case.
He was tied to case files that disappeared, then reappeared. Walsh also exchanged “unprofessional emails” joking with his boss about the case, according to Escalante.
Special prosecutor Dan K. Webb, whose investigation led to Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko pleading guilty to killing Koschman, has said he considered filing criminal charges against Walsh and five other cops over their roles in the case.
Webb decided he didn’t have enough evidence to convict them. But City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended in December that Escalante fire or suspend them without pay.
Walsh, 52, becomes the fourth of those six cops to quit, avoiding firing or other disciplinary action. The others are Constantine G. “Dean” Andrews, who retired two months after he was named chief of detectives; Cmdr. Joseph Salemme; and Detective James Gilger.
Gilger’s detective partner, Nicholas Spanos, and their supervisor, Sgt. Sam Cirone, face one-year suspensions without pay. They aren’t yet 50 years old — the minimum retirement age for Chicago cops.
Walsh resigned this week, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Walsh’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, put out this written statement Thursday: “This was a difficult decision for Denis because he was fully prepared to defend himself from these baseless allegations. We were confident that an impartial trier of fact would have fully exonerated Denis. However, in this case, that would have been the court system.
“Unfortunately, we would wait months or years for the court’s decision,” Herbert said. “For this reason, Denis Walsh has chosen to retire and begin collecting his pension. Economics was the deciding factor.”
Webb’s investigation found that Walsh — who was supposed to have no official role in the 2011 reinvestigation — had communicated that year with Gilger, the lead detective, and with retired detective Ronald E. Yawger, who failed to solve the case in 2004.
After the Chicago Sun-Times asked to see Koschman case files in 2011, Walsh told his bosses he couldn’t find the original files, leading to the reinvestigation. Webb reported that Walsh was involved in four different sets of missing files, including some that ended up at Walsh’s house.
Walsh — a 29-year department veteran who comes from a family of Chicago cops — was suspended for 30 days in 2004 after being arrested in Michigan on a criminal sexual conduct charge. While fighting that felony charge, he was promoted to lieutenant. He ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery.