Former mayor Richard Daley could testify in police torture case

(CHICAGO) Former Mayor Richard M. Daley is set be questioned under oath about police torture by disgraced Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his “midnight crew” of detectives, a long-running scandal that simmered under Daley’s watch both as mayor and Cook County State’s Attorney, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Lawyers for the city last week received notice of a deposition, set for Jan. 17, from lawyers representing Alonzo Smith in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, Burge, and detectives who served under him in Area 2, city Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey confirmed Monday.

Smith spent 20 years in prison after, he claims, detectives Peter Dignan and John Byrne beat and suffocated him with a plastic bag to force Smith to confess to a 1983 murder.

“We expect that the city will present Daley for deposition either on that date or soon thereafter at a mutually agreeable date,” Smith’s attorney, Flint Taylor, wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times. “As a defendant, we are absolutely entitled to depose him. We intend to question him about his alleged role in the extensive coverup of the racist pattern and practice of torture perpetrated under the command of Jon Burge.”

McCaffrey declined to comment on the case.

It is not the first time that Daley has been set to testify in one of the many civil rights cases rooted in allegations of torture by detectives under Burge’s command, though in previous cases, the city has settled the lawsuits before Daley was questioned.

Daley’s testimony was set up by a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, stating that Smith’s lawyers should be allowed to probe how much Daley knew about the torture that took place while he was mayor, though the ruling found that he couldn’t be held liable for misconduct in prosecutions that took place while he was State’s Attorney.

Smith’s attorney, Flint Taylor, has twice sought to put Daley under oath about Burge cases, only to have the city offer a multimillion-dollar settlement his clients could not refuse. Smith’s lawsuit alleges Daley was aware of abuse by Burge’s men as far back as the early 1980s, when Daley was State’s Attorney, and did nothing to stop the abuse after he became mayor in 1989.

The city paid out $5.5. million earlier this year to 57 victims who were tortured by Burge or his men, a payout Mayor Rahm Emanuel said was part of a “moral reckoning” over abuse that spanned two decades. All told, the city has paid out $100 million in legal fees and settlements related to Burge cases, dating back as far as 1982. Burge was fired in 1993.

— Chicago Sun-Times