Burge found guilty of lying about torture

By: Matthew Walberg and Will Lee
Chicago Tribune
Monday, June 28, 2010
Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge, the subject of accusations of torture against suspects for decades, was convicted today on all counts of an indictment charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice.

Burge was convicted of lying in a 2003 civil lawsuit about his use or knowledge of torture of criminal suspects.

Burge, his fingers clasped in front of him, showed no reaction as the verdict was read - guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury.

The verdict marks the culmination of nearly four decades of controversy surrounding Burge, a 33-year department veteran, and the detectives under his command.

The government's case focused on five men who alleged torture and abuse, but dozens of suspects contended they were beaten, shocked, burned, threatened with guns or smothered with plastic bags to force them to falsely confess to some of the city's most shocking murders.

Burge was eventually fired in 1993 for allegedly shocking and burning Andrew Wilson during his 1982 interrogation for the murders of two Chicago police officers a few days earlier.

The allegations -- particularly those of Madison Hobley, who alleged Burge and his detectives tortured him and then lied in court to obtain his conviction for the murders of his wife, son and five others in a 1985 arson -- were one of the key reasons then-Gov. George Ryan gave when he pardoned Hobley and four others and emptied death row.

But Burge was never charged criminally with the tortures themselves. A four-year investigation by a specially appointed Cook County state's attorney concluded in 2006 that there was evidence that Burge committed torture but that the statute of limitations had expired, making it impossible to charge him.

Local and international civil rights groups savaged the report as a whitewash, saying it was just another example of how prosecutors and police turned a blind eye to Burge's misconduct.

Alleged victims found hope for some measure of justice in 2008 when U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced the indictment of Burge on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for submitting written answers to a lawsuit filed against him by Hobley in which he flatly denied that he ever used -- or knew about the use -- of torture against suspects.

Over the past month, the government built its case on transcripts of testimony from the now-deceased Wilson as well as four others -- Anthony Holmes, Melvin Jones, Gregory Banks and Shadeed Mu'min -- who alleged they were abused.