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Defense Attorneys: Go Easy On Burge

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Jon Burge

Former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge (Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, who is now facing sentencing next week for lying about the torture of suspects, says he deserves less prison time because of his military service.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Pat Cassidy reports, Burge is awaiting sentencing for his conviction for lying about the torture of suspects. The Chicago Sun-Times reports his attorneys contend he should do less than the 15 to 21 months recommended by the Probation Department.


LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Pat Cassidy Reports

Federal prosecutors indicate Burge should get up to 30 years in prison. They argue that Burge’s torture of prisoners seriously damaged the reputation of the Chicago Police Department.

Burge’s attorneys say he should get a break, citing his Army tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam, and his bronze star and other commendations. Also, the 63-year-old Burge is suffering from cancer.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20, Thursday of next week.

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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