CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge could face hard time behind bars when he is sentenced in January for perjury and obstruction of justice.
The Chicago Tribune reports prosecutors want a sentence of at least 24 years behind bars for Burge, who has become a symbol of police brutality and abuse of power.
Federal prosecutors argue that Burge’s torture of prisoners seriously damaged the reputation of the Chicago Police Department.
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But Burge’s attorneys plan to ask for probation, and no prison time at all.
Burge, 62, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20.
Burge was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice on June 28, for lying in a civil suit when he denied committing or witnessing torture. More than 100 victims have said the torture started in the 1970s and persisted until the 1990s at police stations on the city’s South and West sides.
He has been free on bond since the five-week trial.
During the trial, felons described beatings, suffocations and games of Russian roulette at the hands of Burge and his men. They also heard from Burge, a decorated former officer and Vietnam veteran who repeatedly denied ever participating in physical abuse or witnessing any during his 28 years with the Police Department.
But for decades, dozens of suspects — almost all of them black men — claimed Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
Former Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men from death row in 2003 after Ryan said Burge had extracted confessions from them using torture.
The allegations of torture and coerced confessions eventually led to a still-standing moratorium on Illinois’ death penalty and the emptying of death row — moves credited with re-igniting the global fight against capital punishment.
But they also earned Chicago a reputation as a haven for rogue cops, a place where police could abuse suspects without notice or punishment.
While Burge was fired from the Police Department in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of convicted cop killer Andrew Wilson, he never was criminally charged in that case or any other, a situation that created widespread outrage in Chicago’s black neighborhoods. The community anger intensified when Burge moved to Florida on his police pension and his alleged victims remained in prison.
In July 2006, two special prosecutors named to look into the allegations said evidence indicated that torture did happen, but the cases were too old to bring charges.
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