CHICAGO SUN-TIMES | TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2011
t’s been two weeks now since the Chicago Police Department concluded Mayor Daley’s nephewthrew the punch that led to David Koschman’s death but closed its recently reopened investiga-tion without seeking criminal charges.The case is closed. And the police aren’t talking. But many questions are still unanswered.The police have said only this: No one received special treatment.Other than that, they have refused to discuss what happened when two groups of drunken revel-ers ran into each other in the Rush Street area in the early-morning hours of April 25, 2004, andKoschman, a 21-year-old from Mount Prospect, ended up on the street, unconscious, and Richard J.“R.J.” Vanecko, a nephew of the mayor and of White House Chief of Staff William Daley, ended uprunning away with a friend.
TIM NOVAK & CHRIS FUSCO
The half-inch-thick stack of reportsthe police released on March 4, inresponse to a public records requestmade by the Chicago Sun-Times onJan. 4, did provide one key answer:Detectives acknowledged for thefirst time that they knew who threwthe punch that knocked the 5-foot-5,140-pound Koschman to the ground, where he hit his head, causing a braininjury that killed him 11 days later.This had been a sticking point thata top prosecutor in the Cook CountyState’s Attorney’s Office said had keptcharges from being filed soon afterKoschman’s death, which the CookCounty Medical Examiner’s Officercalled a homicide.Though the police blacked out thename of the man who threw the punch— as well as the names of everyoneelse who was there beside Koschman— the Sun-Times has reported it was the 6-foot-3, 230-pound, then-29-year-old Vanecko, based on thedescriptions in the police reports andinterviews with witnesses.But the reports — filled with gapsin the narrative and what appear, based on Sun-Times interviews, to becontradictions — leave many morequestions unanswered.They also raise some new ones,including this: Who ultimately decidedno one should be charged in Kos-chman’s violent death? Among the questions the policehave yet to answer:†Vanecko took off — so how didthe police find out he was involved?†Where did they find him — and when?†Did they try to talk with him before Koschman died on May 6,2004? Or before May 20, 2004, whenhe appeared in a witness lineup withfive police officers but refused to talkto detectives?†Did the police stop their inves-tigation hours after Koschman washospitalized on April 25, 2004, as thereports indicate?†Again, as the reports indicate, didthey wait to resume the investigation— and begin doing their first inter- views with six of their nine witnesses— until May 10, 2004, four days afterKoschman died?†The altercation happened neara bank, a drugstore and several bars— were any security-camera videosavailable that might have shown whathappened, and, if so, did the police tryto get them?†Did the police record theiroriginal interviews with Koschman’sfour friends who were with him thatnight? The original police reports sayKoschman’s friends told detectives hegot punched when he ran or lungedat Vanecko’s group. In interviews,though, Koschman’s friends say theynever told detectives that. They sayKoschman got “sucker-punched.” Andthey have told the police they’re will-ing to take lie-detector tests to showthey’re telling the truth.†Why didn’t the police know untilrecently that one of two bystanders —described by prosecutors as the only“unbiased witnesses” — knew Van-ecko from high school, where they hadclasses together at Loyola Academy inWilmette, and were on the freshman wrestling team together?†Why did it take six months forthe homicide detectives who handledthe case in 2004 to file their reports,though they had finished their investi-gation in just 10 days?