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Special prosecutor wants new judge in Laquan McDonald coverup case

Special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes | AP

The special prosecutor who last month charged three Chicago Police officers in a conspiracy to cover up for the cop who shot Laquan McDonald has asked to replace a controversial judge who was assigned to hear the landmark case.

Special Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes, a former judge and federal prosecutor, on Thursday filed a motion to swap Cook County Judge Diane Gordon Cannon for another judge.

State law allows prosecutors to ask to substitute a judge they deem prejudiced against a case, without having to specify the reasons, within 10 days after the case is assigned.

Cannon was already the second judge assigned to handle the case against CPD officers David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney, who were charged last month with counts of conspiracy, misconduct and obstruction of justice for allegedly filing false reports on the 2014 shooting of McDonald by fellow officer Jason Van Dyke.

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke takes the witness stand at a hearing on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. | Nancy Stone |Pool | Chicago Tribune

The three officers’ arraignment on Monday was delayed when the first judge assigned to the case, Mary Margaret Brosnahan, recused herself. Cannon, generally considered a prosecution-friendly judge by courthouse observers, was randomly assigned to replace Brosnahan.

G. Flint Taylor, a civil rights attorney who petitioned Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. to appoint a special prosecutor to probe potential misconduct in the McDonald investigation, praised the move by Holmes.

Cannon, Taylor noted, last year acquitted CPD commander Glenn Evans of charges in a case where he was accused of forcing the barrel of his gun into the mouth of a suspect.

“Given Judge Cannon’s record with regard to acquitting Glenn Evans the defendants in a heartbeat would waive a jury and take it to her,” Taylor said. “I would be very skeptical that she would find them guilty regardless of the evidence.”

Van Dyke, who has been charged with first-degree murder in a separate case, fired 16 shots at the 17-year-old McDonald, claiming the teen was moving toward him and his partner, Walsh, when he opened fire.

Dashboard camera video from a squad car at the scene appears to show McDonald was walking away from Van Dyke and Walsh.

March was the lead detective investigating the shooting, and filed reports that supported up Van Dyke’s account— and stated video backed up his versions of events.

Gaffney was one of the first officers to encounter McDonald the night of the shooting, and was behind the wheel of a police SUV when McDonald slashed the vehicle’s tires with a knife.

Gaffney signed off on reports in which he stated officers had been injured by McDonald.