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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2011 | CHICAGO SUN-TIMES | 5
They’re now asking attorney general to back that decision
BY TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO
POLICE RESIST RELEASE OF VANECKO LINEUP PHOTOS
police she didn’t see anyone punch anyone — didn’t view the lineups. Neither Koschman’s friends nor either of two bystanders positively identifed Vanecko, according to the police. Three of Koschman’s friends were able to identify either McCarthy or Denham. Alvarez said the witnesses’ failure to positively identify who struck Koschman was “a fatal flaw” as far as being able to file criminal charges. “The lineups are significant,” Alvarez said. “If you’re the accused and you’re in a lineup and don’t get identified, that’s good for you.” Area 3 detectives put together the lineups. For the Vanecko lineup, they found five police officers who looked a lot like the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Vanecko, according to police sources and prosecutors. One of the officers, Pete Kelly, is a familiar face to many, having moonlighted as a bouncer on “The Jerry Springer Show,” which for years was taped in Chicago. “Do you know how hard that stupid lineup was?” said Ronald Yawger, the retired detective who now works as an investigator for the attorney general’s office. “You know how hard it is to find five guys — big guys, volunteers — to stand in a lineup? They got five guys 6-3 and
WHO KILLED DAVID KOSCHMAN? | A WATCHDOGS INVESTIGATION
with Vanecko and a group of his friends. Koschman’s friends and the bystander say Koschman traded The decision by the Cook County obscenities with them but was state’s attorney’s office not to charge never violent. Joseph Ferguson, the city of a nephew of Mayor Daley in the oneChicago’s inspector general, is now punch death of 21-year-old David investigating the police handling of Koschman in 2004 hung largely on the fact that witnesses couldn’t posi- the homicide investigation. One of Koschman’s friends has tively identify the nephew, Richard told the Sun-Times he thinks he J. “R.J.” Vanecko, in a police lineup, identified Vanecko in the May 20, according to prosecutors. 2004, lineup, despite the police State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez telling him he picked out one of the and the Chicago Police Departother five men in the lineup — all of ment have refused to release them Chicago cops with looks and photographs, though, of that lineup and of a second lineup in which wit- builds similar to Vanecko, records show. nesses identified two other After taking a second men as being there with look at the evidence Vanecko when he threw earlier this year, the police the punch in a drunken closed the case on March confrontation on Division 1 without presenting it to Street at Dearborn in the the state’s attorney’s office. early morning hours of They concluded that VanApril 25, 2004. ecko punched Koschman Now, the police are but did so in self-defense asking Illinois Attorney David and shouldn’t face any General Lisa Madigan’s Koschman criminal charges even office — where one of the though he and a friend, two retired detectives who supervised those lineups now works Craig Denham, ran away afterward. The two men left behind two — to ensure that those pictures, as other friends, Kevin McCarthy and well as some other records, aren’t his wife, Bridget McCarthy. At first, made public. the McCarthys told the police they The police department and the didn’t know the two men who ran state’s attorney’s office have faced away. Eighteen days later, they adquestions about their handling of mitted that they did, records show the Koschman case following reports in the Chicago Sun-Times that — and that they’d shared a cab with them to Division Street just before revealed inconsistencies between the confrontation. what four Koschman friends and a After detectives found out that bystander say they told the police Vanecko and Denham had been about the confrontation and what there, they put Vanecko, Denham police reports say they told them. and Kevin McCarthy in lineups. The police portrayed Koschman as Bridget McCarthy — who told the having been physically aggressive
fat, big. The object of the lineup is to make everybody look alike.” On the morning of May 20, 2004, — 25 days after Koschman was punched and 14 days after he died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of the brain injuries he suffered when the back of his head hit the street — Vanecko, Denham and McCarthy, accompanied by attorneys Terence Gillespie and Bill Dwyer, came to Area 3 headquarters at Belmont and Western for lineups overseen by Yawger and another since-retired detective, Patrick J. Flynn. Vanecko was in the first lineup. It started at 11:16 a.m. and lasted about 15 minutes. He chose to stand in the second position. Each of Koschman’s four friends and the two bystanders separately viewed that lineup, police reports show. Flynn was inside the lineup room with Vanecko, while Yawger remained outside the room with the witnesses. Two of Koschman’s friends — Scott Allen and Shaun Hageline — each picked out a man they said was the one who knocked Koschman to the street. Allen — who said he was standing next to Koschman — has told the Sun-Times he believes he picked out Vanecko, but the police told him and Hageline that they
each picked the wrong man. According to a report filed by Yawger, one of the Koschman friends pointed to Kelly — the Springer bodyguard — and the other picked out another police officer, Hugh Gallagly, who, like Vanecko, had played varsity football in his high school days. Koschman’s other friends — James Copeland and David Francis Jr. — and the bystanders — Phillip Kohler and Michael Connolly — couldn’t “positively identify anyone,” according to the police. After the lineup, Vanecko left without talking with the police. Yawger and Flynn then conducted a second lineup, which included Denham, McCarthy and four other men, one of them a detective. Three of Koschman’s friends identified either Denham or McCarthy as being at the scene. No one else could “positively identify anyone.” In denying a Sun-Times request for photos of the lineups, a police official wrote that releasing them “constitutes a real and signficant danger to the safety of law-enforcement personnel” and also that “releasing color lineup photos of persons who were never arrested would also be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” While the police were re-investigating the case earlier this year, Koschman’s friend Hageline said a detective told him Vanecko had shaved his head before appearing in the lineup. After the lineups, the two bystanders left the police station, and the detectives and Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Darren O’Brien interviewed Koschman’s four friends. “When they were interviewing us, I felt we were going to be the guys on trial,” Hageline said. “It almost seemed like they were trying to intimidate us.”
Cops who oversaw lineups now in other government jobs
The two detectives who supervised lineups involving Mayor Daley’s nephew and his friends have both retired from the Chicago Police Department and now are working at other government jobs. Patrick J. Flynn retired on Sept. 13, 2004 — about four months
after the investigation of David Koschman’s homicide case went dormant — and gets a yearly police pension of more than $64,000. On top of that, Flynn, 61, makes a salary of $53,628 a year as a security officer for the city of Chicago Department of Aviation — a job that
he started three days after retiring from the police department. He is able to collect a city pension and a city paycheck at the same time because his old and new jobs are covered by different pension plans. The other former detective who ran the police lineups in the
Koschman investigation — Ronald E. Yawger, 59 — retired in August 2007 and gets a police pension of $71,683. A month after his retirement, he was hired as an investigator for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, where his salary is $70,212 a year.
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