Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Former Police Detective Commander Had Reputation For TortureTAMPA, Fla. (CBS) ― Former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge — who has cast a long shadow over the Chicago Police Department because of accusations he tortured suspects for two decades — was arrested by FBI agents Tuesday morning on civil rights charges in his hometown near Tampa.
It was long believed Burge could not be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations. But the FBI arrested Burge, 60, before dawn at his Apollo Beach, Fla., home on federal charges stemming from his conduct at the Chicago Police Department.
The arrest capped a long-running controversy over allegations that torture was used against suspects at Burge's Calumet Area violent crimes headquarters during the 1970s and 80s. He has been accused of torturing suspects by using cattle prods, bags over their heads and a "black box" that administered electric shocks.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago obtained a sealed indictment charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice when he answered questions about police torture. Specifically, the indictment charges that Burge lied in written answers to a civil rights lawsuit when he said he and other detectives hadn't participated in such activities as the "bagging" of a suspect -- covering his head with a typewriter cover until he couldn't breathe.
"There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station," U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement issued after the arrest. "There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits. No person is above the law and no person -- even a suspected murderer -- is beneath its protection."
Chicago FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Grant added: "Every day Chicago Police Officers execute their sworn duties lawfully with great skill, courage and integrity. Sometimes they do so with great peril, as we have been sadly reminded in recent weeks and months. But police officers have a special duty which is underscored by today's announcement. Police officers don't serve the public as judge and jury and they have a special responsibility to care for those within their custody, regardless of their alleged crimes. Today's announcement brings great shame on the career of retired Commander Jon Burge."
Burge was arrested after federal prosecutors in Chicago obtained a sealed indictment charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice statements he made when answering questions about allegations of police torture in a civil lawsuit.
According to the indictment, Burge was asked whether he had been involved in the torture of homicide suspect Madison Hobley and said: "I have not observed nor do I have knowledge of any other examples of physical abuse and/or torture on the part of Chicago police officers at Area 2."
He repeatedly answered similar questions with flat denials.
Hobley claims he was tortured into giving a confession.
Burge was fired from the department in 1993 after the Chicago Police Board found he tortured accused police killer Andrew Wilson into giving a confession. Burge was never charged with a crime, and moved to Florida soon after his firing.
The former detective has continued receiving a city pension and taxpayer-paid legal representation.
Last year, the city spent nearly $20 million settling four cases lodged by men who were freed from Death Row after saying they were tortured into giving false confessions by or under Burge. The former commander was subpoenaed to give depositions in those lawsuits.
In 2006, a $7 million report by special Cook County prosecutors found that Burge, a Vietnam veteran, and his underlings tortured criminal suspects for two decades while police brass allegedly looked the other way.
The special prosecutors who authored the report concluded no charges could be filed because time had run out under the statute of limitations. Both special prosecutors, Robert Boyle and Edward Egan, have since died.
Late last year, five Chicago aldermen sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald calling on him to "investigate, indict and prosecute" Burge for torturing suspects.
In 2003, former Gov. George Ryan pardoned four men after deeming they were tortured into giving confessions by Burge or under Burge's command. One of those men, Aaron Patterson, is back in prison on an unrelated conviction. There is also a pending federal criminal investigation against Hobley.
An attorney who represents two men allegedly tortured by Burge's detectives called the arrest of "enormous symbolic importance" in Chicago, where the police department has long been dogged by allegations of misconduct.
"This has been a symbol of a pattern of racism and of police as an occupier in certain neighborhoods, and the federal government stepping in here just has enormous importance even if it only this one case," said Locke Bowman, of the MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern University School of Law.
The Rev. Al Sharpton says said Burge's arrest was long overdue Sharpton said Burge's arrest is a good sign, but he urged federal officials to continue investigating abuse allegations and who else might have been involved.
Chicago Police said in an official statement that department should not be judged based on Burge's actions.
"The Chicago Police Department has always supported the Special Prosecutor's investigation and has been committed to cooperating on every level," the statement said. "What occurred 20 years ago should not tarnish or diminish the dedicated service of 13,500 men and women who do a good job protecting the citizens of Chicago every day."
The statement added, "Today's news reinforces even further our obligation as law enforcement to reassure the public that the Department is moving forward in the right direction and that we continue to place emphasis on accountability and internal discipline like never before."
The two obstruction counts against Burge each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The perjury count carries up to five years. Each count also provides for a $250,000 fine.
Burge was scheduled for a Tuesday afternoon court appearance in Tampa, Fla. and tentatively scheduled to be arraigned in Chicago Nov. 27.
--Sun-Times staff reporters Natasha Korecki and Frank Main contributed to this report, via the STNG Wire. The Associated Press also contributed.
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Sunday, October 19, 2008
Retired General Colin L. Powell, one of the country's most respected Republicans, stunned both parties on Sunday by strongly endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president on NBC's "Meet the Press" and laying out a blistering, detailed critique of the modern GOP.
Powell said the election of Obama would "electrify the world."
"I think he is a transformational figure," Powell said. "He is a new generation coming ... onto the world stage and on the American stage. And for that reason, I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."
As a key reason, Powell said: "I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration."
Powell, once considered likely to be the nation's first African-American presidential nominee, said his decision was not about race.
Moderator Tom Brokaw said: "There will be some ... who will say this is an African-American, distinguished American supporting another African-American because of race."
Powell, who last year gave Republican John McCain's campaign the maximum $2,300, replied: "If I had only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, 10 months ago. I really have been going back and forth between somebody I have the highest respect and regard for, John McCain and somebody I was getting to know, Barack Obama. And it was only in the last couple of months that I settled on this."
"I can't deny that it will be a historic event when an African-American becomes president," Powell continued, speaking live in the studio. "And should that happen, all Americans should be proud — not just African-American, but all Americans — that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen. It would also not only electrify the country, but electrify the world."
Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said the two men spoke for 10 minutes at 10 a.m., and that the candidate thanked Powell for his endorsement and said "he looked forward to taking advantage of his advice in the next two weeks and hopefully over the next four years."
Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the campaign had not been told of the endorsement: "We didn’t know until General Powell spoke on 'Meet The Press' ."
Powell, making his 30th appearance on "Meet the Press," said he does not plan to campaign for Obama. He led into his endorsement by saying: "We've got two individuals — either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now — which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time.
"And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and you have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."
Powell said that he is "troubled" by the direction of the Republican Party, and said he began to doubt McCain when he chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
"Not just small towns have values," he said, responding to one of Palin's signature lines.
"She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired," he said. "But at the same, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."
The endorsement is likely to help the Illinois senator convince skeptical centrists that he is ready to handle the challenges of commander in chief, and undercuts McCain argument that he is better qualified on national-security issues.
The Arizona senator, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," sought to minimize the endorsement by noting his support from other former secretaries of state and retired military flag officers.
"This doesn’t come as a surprise," McCain said. "But I'm also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state ... and I'm proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired generals and admirals. I respect and continue to respect and admire Secretary Powell."
While McCain only reiterated his respect for Powell when asked about the move, others in the GOP were more candid.
One prominent conservative who knows both McCain and Powell said that for all the secretary of state's criticism of McCain and his praise of Obama, the move had less to do with the two candidates for president than the current occupant of the Oval Office.
"Powell cares a lot about his reputation with Washington elites and he thinks he was badly damaged by his relationship with the Bush administration," said this Republican. "So this is a way to make up for what he regarded as not being treated well by the Bush administration, not being given the due deferenece he thinks he deserves."
And that Powell would make his decision known in the closing weeks of the election, as it becomes increasingly clear that Obama is the favorite, reflects a calculated political move, says this source.
"Let's be honest – do we think Powell would be doing this if Obama had been trailing six or seven points in the polls?" the source asked, deeming Powell's endorsement "a Profile in Conventional Wisdom."
A friend of the former secretary of state sharply dismissed the idea that Powell's move had anything to do with making up for his service in the Bush years.
"Anybody who is making the argument about 'rehabiliation' was not listening to what he had say today," said the friend, suggesting Powell clear that he was unhappy with the state of the party. "It's absolute horseshit."
Rush Limbaugh suggested Powell's move was very much related to Obama's status as the first African-American with a chance to become president.
"Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," Limbaugh wrote in an email. "OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with.
"I was also unaware of his dislike for John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia. I guess he also regrets Reagan and Bush making HIM a 4-star and Secretary of State AND appointing his son to head the FCC. Yes, let's hear it for transformational figures."
But others in the party were less dismissive, acknowledging the heft of the respected retired four-star general and the popularity he enjoys across the country.
"The Powell endorsement is a big deal," said Scott Reed, Bob Dole's campaign manager in 1996 and a close friend of McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. "It has been bantered about since August, and shows both Powell and Obama know how to make an impact in the closing days of a tight campaign."
"What that just did in one sound bite -- and I assume that sound bite will end up in an ad -- is it eliminated the experience factor," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, in an appearance on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. "How are you going to say the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the former National Security Adviser, former Secretary of State was taken in?"
Powell, 71, also used his Meet the Press appearance to criticize McCain and his campaign for invoking the former domestic terrorist William Ayers.
"Sen. McCain says he a washed-up old terrorist—then why does he keep talking about him?" Powell asked.
"They're trying to connect [Obama] to some kind of terrorist feelings, and I think that's inappropriate," Powell said. "Now I understand what politics is all about — I know how you can go after one another. And that's good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift."
Powell said he has "heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion [that Obama's] a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists."
"This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point," Powell said. "We have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And John McCain is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."
Powell, a four-star Army general, was national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when George H.W. Bush was president; and was President George W. Bush’s first secretary of State.
Powell has consulted with both Obama and McCain, and the general’s camp had indicated in the past that he would not endorse.
Powell said that as he watched McCain, the Republican “was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day, there was a different approach to the problem, and that concerned me, sensing that he didn't have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had."
Powell said a big job of the new president will be “conveying a new image of American leadership, a new image of America’s role in the world.”
“I think what the president has to do is to start using the power of the Oval Office and the power of his personality to convince the American people and to convince the world that America is solid, America is going to move forward … restoring a sense of purpose,” he said.
"This Powell endorsement is the nail in the coffin," said one Republican official, speaking anonymously to offer candid thoughts about the party's nominee. "Not just because of him, but the indictment he laid out of the McCain campaign."