CHICAGO SUN-TIMES | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2011
The Chicago Police Depart-ment’s accounts of a drunken RushStreet confrontation seven yearsago involving Richard J. “R.J.” Van-ecko — a nephew of Mayor Daleyand White House chief of staff Wil-liam Daley — and its two result-ing investigations into David Kos-chman’sdeathfill82pages. Yet the half-inch-thick seriesof police reports — recently re-leased two months after a ChicagoSun-Times public records request— leaves gaps in recounting what witnesses say happened in theearly-morning hours of April 25,2004, a Sun-Times investigationhasfound.The police reports also attributestatements to friends of Koschman— and to a bystander described byprosecutors as one of the two “un- biased witnesses” — that they saythey didn’t make or that distort whattheytolddetectives.Koschman’sfriendsrecentlytoldthe police they’d be willing to takelie-detectortests.Instead, the Police Departmentclosed the recently reopened caseon March 1 without seeking crimi-nal charges. The police concludedthat the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Van-eckothrewthepunchthatknockedthe 5-foot-5, 140-pound Koschmanto the street, where he struck hishead, causing a brain injury thatkilled him 11 days later — but that Vaneckoactedinself-defense.Theyreached that conclusion withoutspeaking to Vanecko, who they sayran away afterward and has re-fusedtospeakwithdetectives.The police — including JodyWeis, who quit as police superin-tendent on March 1, and interimSupt.TerryHillard—haverefusedto discuss the case or say whomade the decision to close it with-out bringing their findings to CookCounty State’s Attorney Anita Al- varezforreview.The only public comment fromthe department — made days be-foretheannouncementtherewould be no criminal charges — camefrom Deputy Supt. Ernest Brown, who said the police conducted “athorough, fair and impartial inves-tigation.”Hours after Koschman was hos-pitalized in critical condition, de-tectives stopped interviewing wit-nesses. They didn’t resume doingso — and do their first interviews with most of the witnesses — untilMay 10, 2004, four days after Kos-chman died. Ten days later, thatinitial investigation ended with nochargesfiled.The case remained dormantuntil January, when a Sun-Timesreporteraskedtoreviewthefiles,arequest that led police to reinvesti-gateKoschman’sviolentdeath.Though the police aren’t talking, what follows are details of what’sknownoftheirinvestigations,basedon the recently released reportsfromadozendetectivesand,wherenoted,Sun-Timesinterviews:
April 25, 2004:
Koschman, who’s from Mount Prosect, goes bar-hopping on Rush Street withfourfriends:ScottAllen,JamesCo-peland,DaveFrancisJr.andShaunHageline, each recently turned 21. After 3 a.m., they leave Bar Chi-cago,9W.Division,andarewalking west when Koschman bumps intoCraig Denham, 29, a LaSalle Bankemployee who’s with Vanecko, also29, and Kevin and Bridget McCar-thy, 31 and 26. Bridget McCarthyand her parents are friends withthe mayor’s family. Denham wouldlater marry a sister of the mayor’sson-in-law. The groups exchangeangry words. Koschman getspunched so hard he’s unconscious before he hits the ground, Allenlatertellspolice,slamminghisheadonthestreet.VaneckoandDenhamrun away. Police handcuff McCar-thy,whotellsthemhedoesn’tknowthe two guys who ran away and isreleased.Two bystanders later described by prosecutors as the “unbiased witnesses” — co-workers MichaelConnolly and Phillip Kohler — tellpolice they saw what happened.Koschman is taken to Northwest-ernMemorialHospital. Abeatcop,EdwinTremore,filesa “simple battery” report basedon statements from Connolly andHageline.
Later April 25, 2004:
Detec-tives Andrew Sobolewski, RitaO’LearyandRobertClemensbegininvestigating.O’LearyandClemensgo to the McCarthys’ home. KevinMcCarthy says he was getting outof a cab at Division and Dearbornand saw two groups of men argu-ing. “One of the younger malespushed one of the older males whosubsequently fell into his wife. Mc-Carthy said he yelled ‘What thehell,’ and that one of the youngermales then pushed him. . . . He saidashiswifewaspullinghimawayheturned around and saw the victimon the ground, but did not see whopushedhim.”The detectives apparently don’ttalk with McCarthy’s wife, thedaughter of Jack Higgins, a friendof the mayor who built Chicago’spoliceheadquarters.O’Leary calls the hospital andtalks with Nanci Koschman abouther son’s condition. O’Leary thencalls Connolly, who says he sawKoschman “get into the centerof the altercation’’ and then “get‘pushedorshoved’fromthegroup.”Itwillbe15daysbeforepolicein-terviewanyotherwitnesses.
May 6, 2004, 11:26 a.m.:
Kos-chman dies from “crainiocerebralinjuriesduetoblunttrauma.”
Thedeathisruleda homicide by Dr. Tae Lyong An, aCookCountydeputymedicalexam-iner.Police upgrade the battery caseto“first-degreemurder”andassignit to detectives Ronald Yawger and AnthonyVillardita.Incomingdays,they’ll work with detectives PatFlynn, Anthony Giralamo Jr., Ed- ward Louis and Charles Redman.The investigation will be wrappedup in the next 10 days — but policereports on the case won’t be fileduntilNovember. Yawger, Giralamo and Flynn re-sumeinterviewingwitnesses,start-ing with Kohler, whom they trackdown at the Cook County Court-house in Rolling Meadows, wherehe’s on jury duty. Kohler says hesaw two groups of men who “ap-peared to be pushing and shovingeach other along with loud verbalexchanges” before he saw Kos-chman“chargeintothegroupinanangeredstate,butwasimmediatelypushedbackoutintothestreet.”Kohler says three older men ranaway. He also says “he has neverseenanyofthesubjectsfromeithergroup before and could not identifyany of the persons involved.” In aSun-Times interview earlier this year, Kohler says he later remem- bered he and Vanecko had beenhigh school classmates at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, graduatingin1992—whichhedidn’ttellpoliceuntilJan.18,2011.
May 12, 2004:
Yawger and hispartners interview three of Kos-chman’s friends: Allen, Copelandand Francis. Allen “states that asthey got the victim about 10 feetfrom the group of three guys, the victim broke away and ran backtoward them. Allen states that asthevictimranuptothethreeguys,the larger white male punched the victimintheface.”Accordingtothereports, Copeland says Koschman wasrunningwhenhewashit,while“Francis states that he then ob-servedthevictimlungeatthethreeguys and then immediately comeflyingbackwards.”Those police reports are wrong, Allen and Copeland now say. “It was like a circle of all of us,” Allensays. “There was no room to run.He never lunged or ran. I was rightnext to him. I saw the punch com-ing.’’ Francis couldn’t be reached todiscuss the police reports, but hepreviously told the Sun-Times thatKoschman was walking, not run-ning,whenhewashit. A different team of detectives, Villardita and Louis, interviewKoschman’s other friend, Hageline.TheirreporthasnomentionofKos-chman running or lunging. Hage-lineisquotedassaying:“IgotDaveaway for about 10-15 seconds thenDave went back. I turned to get acab because I didn’t think things weregoingtodiffuse.”
May 13, 2004:
Bridget McCar-thy and her attorney meet withdetectives at Area 3, at Belmontand Western. She tells detectivesshe and her husband had been atanengagementpartywithDenhamand Vanecko when they decided to
BY TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO
Staff Reporters / email@example.com