CHICAGO (CBS) – A McHenry County judge will preside over the politically-charged involuntary manslaughter case against Richard “R.J.” Vanecko, a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is accused of killing David Koschman in 2004.
The Illinois Supreme Court assigned the case to the presiding judge in McHenry County, who must appoint a judge in his circuit to preside over Vanecko’s case.
McHenry County Chief Judge Michael Sullivan tells CBS he doesn’t expect to assign the case to a judge until after the holidays. He said the selected judge would be sent to Cook County since a change of venue was not specifically requested.
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans asked the Supreme Court to assign a judge from outside Cook County to the case, after a judge who was picked at random withdrew from the case on Monday, because of his ties to Daley.
Last week, at Vanecko’s first court hearing, Cook County Judge Arthur Hill disclosed he worked for Daley when the former mayor ran the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in the 1980s. Hill said he received promotions under Daley, and when Daley became mayor, he received an appointment to the CTA Board. Hill was also the top aide to former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine at the time of Koschman’s death, when authorities declined to seek charges against Vanecko.
The special prosecutor who brought the indictment against Vanecko requested a judge from outside the county be assigned to the case to avoid any other possible conflicts of interest, and Evans agreed, sending the request to the Supreme Court, which revealed its decision Friday to transfer the case to a McHenry County judge.
Koschman, 21, died in May 2004, 11 days after he was punched and hit his head on a curb during a confrontation with Vanecko outside a bar near Rush and Division streets.
Investigators initially determined the 6’3″, 230 pound Vanecko punched the 5’5″, 140 pound Koschman in self-defense. But in April, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as a special prosecutor to re-investigate the case, after the Koschman family and others criticized original investigation. The Koschman family and other critics of the original investigation have said they believe police and prosecutors might have decided not to charge Vanecko because he is Daley’s nephew.
Webb has also been investigating the original handling of the case, and his office has said that investigation continues.