City moves to settle torture cases for $7.1 million

July 23, 2012

Alex Keefe

(AP/File)

Two men who say they were tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge are in line for more than $7 million in payouts, and former Mayor Richard Daley will be spared from testifying under oath about the scandal, as part of two legal settlements a City Council Committee approved Monday.

Aldermen on the Finance Committee approved a $5.3 million settlement for Michael Tillman, who was allegedly tortured by Chicago police into confessing to a murder that he didn’t commit. Tillman spent more than 23 years in prison, and was exonerated in 2010.

The Committee also approved a $1.8 million settlement in the case of David Fauntleroy, who also said he had been tortured by police and was later cleared.

The settlement in Tillman's case also prevents some potential embarrassment for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. After months of haggling, Daley was finally set to give sworn testimony to Tillman's lawyers regarding the long-running police torture scandal that happened on his watch as Cook County State’s Attorney.

Flint Taylor, an attorney for Tillman, said he's disappointed he now won't get to question Daley, and he suggested Daley's role as a defendant and possible deponent in the case may have influenced the city's decision to settle.*

"I think that the fact that Daley was a defendant was a strong factor in the settlement that we've now obtained for Mr. Tillman," Taylor said.

The strong evidence in Tillman's favor was also likely a big factor, Taylor said.

But Steve Patton, the city's top lawyer, flat-out denied the idea that Daley's role influenced the city's decision to settle.

"Absolutely not. It had absolutely nothing to do with either our decision to settle or the amount that we negotiated," Patton said. He added the city decided the settle because it could have faced potentially bigger costs if it went to a jury trial and lost.

In a written statement, Tillman said he is the statement brings him some relief, but he’s disappointed that Daley won’t be questioned under oath.

“If he had done what he should have, I would not have been tortured, lived with the fear of the death penalty, or sent to prison,” Tillman said. “To me, this settlement proves that Daley, Jon Burge, and Burge’s torture crew did me terribly wrong.”

If the full City Council signs off on the two settlements Wednesday, that will bring the total taxpayer cost of the Burge torture cases to $40 million in payouts and legal fees, Patton said.

Chicago is still fighting two other cases in appeals courts, and there are still five other pending cases that stemmed from the decades of suspect abuse under Burge and his "Midnight Crew" on the South Side.

Even with the settlements approved Monday, Taylor called on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to issue a formal apology to the Burge torture victims.

"The mayor himself needs to speak on these issues, and it's not just enough to say, 'Let's put this in our rearview mirror,'" Taylor said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office wouldn't immediately say whether he would issue such an apology. An attorney for Daley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

*An earlier version of this story stated that Tillman attorney Flint Taylor said he "thinks the city settled his client's case to spare Daley from having to give sworn testimony." In fact, Taylor suggested that may have been one reason for the city's decision, in addition to the evidence in his client's favor.