Burge figure takes plea deal to get out of prison

By: Matthew Walberg
Monday, May 10, 2010

A former Death Row inmate who won new trials for two 1990 murders after convincing a judge his confessions were beaten out of him by detectives under the command of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge agreed to a plea deal today that will see his release from prison within months.

Cortez Brown, also known as Victor Safforld, pleaded guilty to the murder of Curtis Sims and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. In exchange, prosecutors from the Illinois Attorney General's office agreed to drop charges against him for the murder of Delvin Boelter.

Brown has served more than 19 years in prison, and under the law at the time of his conviction, he must serve 50 percent of his time. Today's plea means he is expected to be released from prison by Sept. 21.

The deal came after Circuit Judge Clayton Crane, in separate rulings, granted Brown a new trial for both murders, saying he believed there was overwhelming evidence to support allegations that the confessions had been beaten out of him by detectives.

"He's gone from Death Row to getting out of prison in a matter of months," said Brown's attorney, Flint Taylor. "Obviously that was something he couldn't turn down. Both sides were looking at probably two trials that would take years, and I know from his standpoint, he wanted freedom, and from their viewpoint, I don't think they wanted to try both cases."

Prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment, but Taylor said Brown only took the plea to ensure his release from prison and still maintains he is innocent of both crimes.

"Nobody in his right mind could turn down this opportunity," Taylor said. "Rather than spend the rest of his life in prison, he'll be about to come out and start a new life."

Brown is one of dozens of men who are seeking or have obtained new trials over allegations that Burge and his detectives at the old Area 2 and Area 3 headquarters routinely beat suspects to force their confessions to some of the city's most shocking murders.

Burge is slated to stand trial in federal court later this month on charges that he lied in a civil suit brought against him by an alleged victim, saying he did not use and was not aware of any torture or abuse of suspects.