Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Charge: Ex-cop lied about torture

October 22, 2008

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— A former high-ranking police official was arrested Tuesday on charges that he lied when he denied that he and detectives under his command tortured murder suspects decades ago, allegations that led Chicago to pay former inmates millions and helped spark Illinois' death-penalty moratorium.

A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday accused former police Lt. Jon Burge of perjury and obstruction of justice for statements he made in 2003 when answering questions for a civil-rights lawsuit.

The arrest capped a long-running controversy over allegations that beatings, electric shocks and death threats were used against suspects at Burge's Area 2 violent crimes headquarters.

Burge, 60, who has long denied wrongdoing, was arrested before dawn at his home in Apollo Beach, Fla., the U.S. attorney's office said. He had moved to Florida after he was fired in 1993.

"He has shamed his uniform and shamed his badge," U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in announcing the indictment.

Burge appeared Tuesday afternoon before a federal magistrate judge in Tampa and was later released on $250,000 bond. Outside the courthouse, he told reporters he will plead not guilty.

Asked if the indictment came as a surprise, Burge said, "I'm not at liberty to say anything, but yes it did." He left in a pickup truck.

Burge is expected to be arraigned in federal court in Chicago on Monday. His attorney James Sotos declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press.

The two obstruction counts against Burge each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the perjury count carries up to five years.

The indictment said Burge lied in his response to the civil-rights lawsuit when he said he and other detectives hadn't tortured anyone. That lawsuit, filed by Madison Hobley, alleged that Burge and other detectives had tortured him, including covering his head with a typewriter cover until he couldn't breathe in 1987.

Hobley was suspected of setting a fire that killed seven people, including his wife and son.

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