No speeches, no apologies as Chicago approves $7 million police torture settlement

July 25, 2012

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In silence on Wednesday, Chicago’s City Council agreed to spend more than $7 million to settle a pair of lawsuits filed by victims of police torture.

Earlier in the meeting, multiple aldermen gave speeches about the late Cubs third baseman Ron Santo for making it to the Hall of Fame, and they rose to toast the culinary greatness of chef Charlie Trotter.

But when the council was asked to approve money for the lawsuits tied to torture under former police commander Jon Burge, no one spoke, and there was no formal roll call.

Outside of the council chamber, 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins defended the silence.

"Everybody recognizes what Commander Burge did was wrong. It’s no need to stand up and lament," Brookins said. "Burge is finally in jail, and these victims are getting some measure of justice."

But Flint Taylor, an attorney for one of the torture victims, Michael Tillman, said he and his client are disappointed no aldermen or Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke or apologized on behalf of the city.

Tillman, who said he was tortured into confessing to a murder, spent more than 23 years in prison. He was exonerated in 2010.

"If the city thinks that they can just move forward without getting on the right side of the torture scandal, and that paying money is the only thing they need to do to make right what was wrong, I think they're sadly mistaken," Taylor said.

"I am focused on the future of this city - not just about the past, and that I wanted to settle this, which is what we have done," Emanuel said after the council meeting when told of Taylor's request for an apology. "I also want to see this dark chapter in the city's history brought to a close and I think we are achieving that. And to learn the lessons from this moment so we can build a future as a city."

Taylor noted that a handful of lawsuits are still pending against the city tied to torture under Burge. 

Burge is serving a 4-and-a-half year federal prison sentence, for lying in court papers about the torture.

This story includes reporting from WBEZ's Alex Keefe and Robert Wildeboer.