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CHICAGO SUN-TIMES MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2012

NEWS

THE WATCHDOGS
THIS WEEK BY TIM NOVAK & CHRIS FUSCO

Toomin: Support wont affect ruling on special prosecutor

KOSCHMAN JUDGE GAVE MONEY TO ALVAREZ CAMPAIGN


Prosecutors frequently appear before Toomin and the 13 judges he supervises in juvenile court on a wide range of matters. In the Koschman case, though, the prosecutors office is, in effect, defending itself, arguing that there is no reason to question its impartiality nor to question whether the agency has a conflict of interest in reviewing a case in which the conduct of prosecutors has been questioned. Though Illinois allows judges to donate to political campaigns, Jeffrey M. Shaman, a professor of legal ethics at DePaul University, says judges should take care in deciding whose campaigns to contribute to. It looks particularly bad when a judge contributes to a campaign of someone who regularly appears before him, says Shaman. Locke Bowman an attorney from Northwestern Universitys MacArthur Justice Center who is representing Koschmans mother, Nanci Koschman, and two other family members says he was unaware of Toomins contributions to Alvarez until asked about them by a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. He declined to comment further. Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly says: The states attorney has no idea how Judge Toomin was invited to any fund-raiser we would assume through the mailing or email process employed by the states attorneys campaign. If a judge receives an invitation to a fund-raiser for the states attorney, it is because they have voluntarily provided her campaign with their contact information, and they wish to be invited to events, or they have attended an event that was advertised on the campaign website that was open to the public. There is absolutely no effort on the part of the states attorneys campaign to solicit members of the judiciary. To imply that a judges contribution would influence the judicial conduct or discretion of any judge is absurd. Bowman and co-counsel G. Flint Taylor have asked that any outside investigation of the Koschman case also determine whether the states attorneys office and the police didnt charge Vanecko because his uncle was the mayor. Bowman and Taylor argue that an outsider is needed in part because Alvarez has made clear that she thinks the case was handled properly and that no criminal charges are warranted. The police took a new look at the case early last year, prompted by a Sun-Times investigation, and for the first time identified Vanecko as having thrown the deadly punch. But they decided not to ask prosecutors to file criminal charges, saying they believed Vanecko acted in self-defense, though Vanecko threw the only punch and then ran away. On Feb. 29, Toomin ordered Alvarez to give Koschmans lawyers transcripts of interviews with six witnesses done by city of Chicago Inspector General Joseph Fergusons office. Ferguson began investigating the police departments handling of the Koschman case last year. Alvarez had fought having to turn over the transcripts, asserting that doing so would disrupt the ongoing criminal investigation by her office and Fergusons staff and further undermine an already-dim prospect of any future criminal prosecution.

he judge whos to decide whether a special prosecutor investigates the Cook County states attorneys offices handling of a homicide case involving a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley has contributed $1,450 to the re-election campaign of States Attorney Anita Alvarez, records show. Illinois Supreme Court rules allow such contributions. Still, they are rare. Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin is among eight Cook County judges who have given Alvarez at least $150 the minimum amount thats required to be reported in Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez has received $1,450 in donacampaign-finance filings. Thats 2 tions to her re-election campaign from Circuit Court Judge Michael P. percent of the 410 sitting judges. Toomin is set to hear arguments Toomin. | AL PODGORSKI~SUN-TIMES March 30 from lawyers for the C. Evans, the countys chief judge. uted to Alvarez four times, most family of David Koschman. Biebel says he didnt know about recently in June. He says he has They are asking the judge to Toomins contributions to Alvarez attended campaign fund-raisers appoint a special prosecutor to but that, even if he had known, it for Alvarez and also gave money investigate the circumstances of wouldnt have changed his mind to her predecessors but that his the 21-year-old Mount Prospect political contributions wont about assigning Toomin the case. mans death days after beWould that make a difference in affect his decisions in the ing punched in the face by his judgment? No, says Biebel. I Koschman case. We live Daley nephew Richard J. know Mike Toomin to be one of the in a political environment, R.J. Vanecko in a drunken best judges Ive ever served with. the judge says when asked confrontation in the Rush Toomin who formerly served about the contributions he Street area in the early as chief judge of the countys made to Alvarez. Will this morning hours of April affect things? Of course not criminal courts has been a judge 25, 2004. They also want since 1980. Running as a Republi. . . . It is what it is. an outside prosecutor to Michael P. Toomin, 73, is the presid- can, he was elected to be a circuit investigate the way the case Toomin court judge in 1984. ing judge of Cook Countys was handled by the states As a criminal courts judge in the juvenile courts. Chief Cook County attorneys office and the Chicago Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel 1990s, Toomin presided over highPolice Department. profile cases including the retrial Jr. gave Toomin the Koschman Alvarez is fighting the request of Chicago mob hit man Harry case after withdrawing because of for a special prosecutor. Aleman. He sentenced Aleman to Toomin who was assigned the a health issue. Biebel chose Toom100 to 300 years in prison. in after consulting with Timothy case in December has contrib-