Judge recused in Daley's nephew trial

December 17, 2012

The Associated Press

A judge presiding over the involuntary manslaughter case against a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley recused himself from the politically charged case, citing his own ties to Daley.

Circuit Court Judge Arthur Hill's recusal from Richard Vanecko's trial comes amid a grand jury inquiry into whether authorities covered up or impeded the investigation into the 2004 death of David Koschman because Vanecko's relationship to the city's most powerful man.

Hill worked for Daley when Daley was Cook County State's Attorney, and was appointed to the board of the Chicago Transit Authority during Daley's mayoral stint.

Hill stressed that he believed he could have impartially handled the case.

"But in and abundance of caution, I am recusing myself from further proceedings," he said in court Monday, a few days after he told attorneys about his ties to Daley.

In an indication of how questions regarding the influence of the Daley family could play out as the case goes forward, Vanecko's attorneys objected to the prosecution's request that a judge from outside of Cook County hear the case.

Defense attorney Thomas Breen said assigning the case to a judge from outside the county would be "rather insulting" to Cook County judges, adding that there was "no apparent conflict" that would make such a move necessary.

Judge Michael Toomin granted the prosecution's motion to recommend a judge from outside of Cook County. This request will be sent to Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

The county’s Chief Judge will decide whether to approve the prosecution’s request.

The county's presiding judge has yet to make a decision on the request. If approved, a judge anywhere in state could be assigned to the case.

The 38-year-old Vanecko was indicted by a Cook County special grand jury in the death of Koschman, which happened days after he fell and struck his head during a fight with Vanecko outside a bar in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.

Already, Daley has cast a long shadow over the case.

The appointment of special prosecutor Dan Webb, a former U.S. Attorney, was made by a judge who agreed that there was evidence to support allegations of police misconduct, including ignoring or falsely recording witness statements and labeling the victim as the aggressor.

After Vanecko was indicted earlier this month, Koschman's mother said to reporters that after the fight, a police detective told her that she would be "impressed" by who Vanecko was related to and if she filed a lawsuit, Vanecko's family had the wherewithal to tie the case up in court "for years."

—WBEZ reporter Angelica Robinson contributed to this report.