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DID R.J. CONFESS?


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WHO KILLED DAVID KOSCHMAN? | A WATCHDOGS INVESTIGATION

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CHICAGO SUN-TIMES THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2012

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WHO KILLED DAVID KOSCHMAN? | A WATCHDOGS INVESTIGATION

CONFESSION?
BY TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO
Staff Reporters tnovak@suntimes.com

A nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley may have made an admission of guilt to detectives that he threw the punch that caused David Koschmans death, attorneys for Koschmans family said in a court filing Wednesday. They said sworn witness statements to the city of Chicago inspector generals office, which they obtained under a court order, contradict arguments made by Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez. Alvarez is fighting their efforts to have a special prosecutor appointed to reinvestigate the case and determine whether her office and the police are guilty of official misconduct. Minutes after four of Koschmans friends were unable to identify Daley nephew Richard J. R.J. Vanecko in a police lineup nearly eight years ago, the friends say an unidentified detective told them the police knew who had punched the 21-year-old from Mount Prospect in the face, according to their sworn statements, which Alvarez unsuccessfully tried to keep from being released. We know the guy that did it. Hes in there in the other room, and hes just bawling his eyes out, hes a big baby. . . . He didnt mean for one punch to lead to all this, Koschmans friend James Copeland recalled during his sworn interview last year with the inspector generals office, which has been investigating the Koschman case in response to a series of Chicago Sun-Times reports. Copelands recollections were backed up by three other Koschman friends who were also with him on the night in April 2004 when their group ran into Vanecko and oth-

Richard J. R.J. Vanecko


ers on Division Street, according to transcripts of the interviews that a judge ordered Alvarezs office last month to provide to Koschmans family and lawyers. This guy is really broken up about this, hes really sorry, Shaun Hageline recalled the detective saying, according to his interview with the inspector general. Theres no reference to any admission of guilt or of Vanecko being upset in the Chicago Police Departments reports, which the Koschman lawyers say appear to have been falsified to justify Vanecko not being charged. The police reports state that Vanecko showed up with a lawyer for the lineup but left without talking to detectives or a top prosecutor who was present. The failure of the police to describe in their reports Vaneckos crying and apologizing on May 20, 2004, is, to say the least, disturbing, the Koschman family lawyers said in the 41-page motion filed with Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin. Koschmans family wants Toomin to appoint an outside prosecutor to re-examine the case. The states attorneys office declined to charge Vanecko eight years ago. Koschmans death was listed as an unsolved homicide until early last year, when a Sun-Times inquiry prompted the police to take another look at the case. For the first time, they identified Vanecko as the man who threw the deadly punch but concluded the mayors nephew acted in self-defense and didnt ask Alvarez to consider charges. Alvarez has said her office is now reinvestigating the case along with Inspector General Joseph Fergusons staff, so theres no need for a special prosecutor. Her spokeswoman declined to comment on Wednesdays motion. Toomin is set to hear oral arguments from Alvarez and the Koschman lawyers on March 30. Alvarez has argued that the interviews with Koschmans friends and with two bystanders show that

Koschmans friends have given conflicting stories. Alvarezs descriptions of those witness statements . . . are selective, incomplete and, in some respects, completely misleading, Koschman lawyer Locke E. Bowman wrote. The witnesses are remarkably uniform in disavowing the accuracy of their reported statements in the police reports. All six witnesses said under oath that Koschman was drunk and that he was yelling and swearing after bumping into someone in Vaneckos group but was never physically aggressive during the confrontation, in which he was suddenly punched in the face and knocked to the ground. Koschman died of brain injuries 11 days later. According to Hagelines interview, Vanecko was definitely drunk because I just seen that in his glassy eyes, the way he was looking at Dave. It was scary. I knew he was drunk and probably couldnt be held back by his friends or me. I was more concerned about their group because they were physically dominant to our group, and I was concerned that if two of them kind of snapped, we would all get our asses kicked here. After the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Vanecko punched Koschman, who was 5-foot-5 and weighed 140 pounds, Vanecko and a friend, Craig Denham, ran away a sign of guilt, Bowman argues. He also asserts that an outside prosecutor is needed to determine how the police knew Vanecko was the mayors nephew something that was noted in a police file that was discovered only after Ferguson began investigating last summer. How did the detectives learn the information about Vaneckos relationship to the Daleys? Bowman wrote.

Exhibit B: Alvarez, Daley on Facebook


Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez says she has no conflicts of interest that would keep her from being able to fairly reinvestigate a 2004 homicide case involving Richard J. R.J. Vanecko, a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. But lawyers for the family of David Koschman, who died after the police say Vanecko punched him in the face, say her Facebook page suggests otherwise. The Koschman lawyers found two pictures on Alvarezs Facebook page that show her with Daley: one from 1986, when Daley was states attorney, and the other from 2010. They say in a court filing Wednesday that the photos illustrate that she retains close political ties with the former mayor, who actually hired Alvarez as an assistant in the office of the states attorney in 1986.