One more Burge-era claim looms, even after aldermen sign off on $9M settlement
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Chicago taxpayers face one more massive settlement tied to the Jon Burge torture-era after aldermen on Friday added $9.3 million to the $111 million mountain of Burge-related liabilities.
First Deputy Corporation Counsel Jennifer Notz acknowledged that Burge had “very little, if anything to do with” the investigation that triggered James Kluppelberg’s claim that he was beaten into confessing to setting a 1984 fire that killed a woman and five children in Back of the Yards.
But because Burge was serving as commander of the Chicago Police Department’s Bomb & Arson Unit at the time, his notorious tenure as Area 2 commander of a “midnight crew” that systemically tortured African-American suspects would weigh heavily against the city.
“Jon Burge is named as the defendant in the case . . . He was the commander . . . As a result, he can be called to testify in the matter and he would take the Fifth Amendment. The jury would then be instructed that they could draw an adverse inference based on that invocation of the Fifth Amendment,” Notz told the City Council’s Finance Committee.
When the full City Council signs off on the Kluppelberg settlement next week, beleaguered Chicago taxpayers will have spent more than $120 million in settlements, judgments, reparations and legal fees tied to the Burge era.
Notz said one more whopper of a settlement looms.
It’s expected to go to Stanley Wrice, who spent 31 years in prison after being tortured into confessing to a rape by detectives working under Burge.
In 2014, Wrice was set free after a judge overturned his conviction, saying there was no doubt detectives had beaten him. A different judge subsequently refused to grant Wrice a certificate of innocence, saying there was still “substantial evidence” that he “actively participated” in the sexual assault.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last spring that an attorney for Wrice was seeking to question former Mayor Richard M. Daley to resolve a “significant contradiction” in the testimony of former Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek and former First Deputy State’s Attorney Richard Devine.
Devine has testified that Daley, a former state’s attorney, investigated Burge torture claims. Brzeczek has said he wasn’t aware of any investigation.
In the past, judges have ordered Daley — who served as state’s attorney for eight years ending in 1989 — to answer questions in two Burge-era lawsuits. But the city settled both lawsuits before Daley was forced to give a deposition.
Also on Friday, aldermen authorized a $350,000 settlement to a 72-year-old California man who claims that negligence by Chicago Fire Department paramedics rendered him a quadraplegic after he apparently fell in a vestibule at Saint Joseph Hospital in 2010.
Paramedics treated Raymond Berke for what they thought was a cardiac or respiratory ailment, Notz said. Hours later, Berke was diagnosed with a massive spinal injury. Berke’s attorneys claim that he should have been immobilized on a back board with a cervical collar placed around his neck.
Berke has already received a “large” settlement from Saint Joseph Hospital after an initial demand of $16.5 million, Notz said.
His attorneys then returned to the city and asked for $3 million, only to settle for 11.6 percent of that amount, Notz said.