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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Better Government Association is urging the appointment of a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the case of David Koschman, who died after being punched by a nephew of retired Mayor Richard M. Daley.
BGA executive director Andy Shaw told WBBM Newsradio Wednesday that his organization has filed an amicus brief in the case. Circuit Judge Michael Toomin is expected to issue a ruling on the issue on Friday.
“We basically said that we believe there needs to be an independent prosecutor. The family of every victim of violence is entitled to an investigation that is fair, thorough, impartial, and free of political considerations,” Shaw said. “This one just has too many questions.”
Early on the morning of April 25, 2004, Koschman reportedly had a confrontation with Daley nephew Richard “R.J.” Vanecko outside a bar in the Rush and Division Street nightclub district. The quarrel allegedly prompted Vanecko to punch Koschman.
Koschman had hit his head on the ground, and he died 12 days later.
The case was reopened and closed by Chicago Police last year, without criminal charges. Police said they determined Vanecko acted in self-defense.
Detectives reportedly determined Koschman was the aggressor, based on witness accounts. But those witnesses later said they never told police Koschman was the aggressor.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office also declined to press charges, saying there was not enough evidence to sustain criminal charges against Vanecko. But last year, Alvarez did ask Illinois State Police to examine the Chicago Police investigation.
Koschman’s family’s petition for a special prosecutor noted irregularities in the investigation, including false official reports and a case file that went missing, and says the investigation might have been influenced by Vanecko’s relationship to Mayor Daley. The petition said the irregularities require an independent investigation.
Shaw the goal is not to go after Vanecko, but to provide solace for the Koschman family.
“We’re not trying to convict Mr. Vanecko or even get him indicted,” Shaw said. “We’re saying the Koschman family deserves closure here.”
Shaw also raised questions about whether Judge Toomin’s impartiality was reliable, since he was a campaign contributor to Alvarez when she ran for State’s Attorbey.
“That’s why we really need this investigated with no skin the game; no political connections, and let’s get it straight and right one last time,” Shaw said.
If Toomin rules against the appointment of a special prosecutor, the Koschman family plans to appeal, although it is not clear whether they legally can. The BGA will join the Koschmans in an appeal if it happens, Shaw said.
“I’m hoping Judge Toomin does the right thing on Friday and asks for a special prosecutor,” Shaw said.
If the judge approves the motion, the BGA will suggest some attorneys, and will ask that the prosecutor work pro bono so taxpayers don’t get stuck with a big bill, Shaw said.