Cook County board defies judge's order.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
by Rob Olmstead
If you've ever wanted to see a Cook County commissioner go to jail, today could be
A majority of the county board voted Tuesday to defy a Cook County judge and continue
refusing to pay special state's attorneys investigating allegations of torture by
former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge.
Commissioner Earlean Collins, who voted to defy Judge Paul Biebel Jr., head of the
Cook County's criminal court division, will appear before him tomorrow. With her will
be fellow Commissioner Peter Silvestri, who voted to obey the judge.
"Let us go to court," said a defiant Collins at Tuesday's board meeting.
The showdown comes after the county has paid out $7 million over five years for the
special prosecutor services of Edward J. Egan and Robert D. Boyle in the Burge
Burge was accused of torturing dozens of suspects to elicit confessions. In a report
issued in July 2006, Egan and Boyle concluded Burge probably did torture victims, but
that the statute of limitations under which Burge could be prosecuted had run out.
The regular Cook County state's attorney's office was not allowed to investigate the
Burge matter because of an inherent conflict of interest: Several torture victims
allege county prosecutors were aware of the torture and did nothing to stop it or
prosecute it. Biebel ordered the special prosecutors assigned to the case and
specified that the county be ordered to pay their salaries.
More than a year after Egan and Boyle issued their report, commissioners were
dumbfounded as to why they were still paying the two when their work was apparently
finished. The board voted Sept. 6 to halt any future payments.
The head of the Cook County state's attorney's civil division bureau, Patrick
Driscoll, said Tuesday the two are investigating further complaints that have arisen
since the report was submitted. Additionally, there are several civil suits pending
from the torture cases, and Egan and Boyle are responding to subpoenas for information
in those cases.
Driscoll advised the county commissioners to obey the judge's order, saying they had
no defense under which to do otherwise. Tuesday's vote was a vote to revoke their
Sept. 6 vote, and Driscoll urged a "yes" vote.
Commissioner Tony Peraica joined those voting to disobey the judge, saying a
legitimate constitutional issue as to division of powers existed. He also questioned
whether the county could be made to continue paying once the prosecutors had concluded
their duty of prosecuting.
Driscoll told commissioners that they, at least theoretically, could face
incarceration if the judge finds them in contempt.
Commissioner Michael Quigley said he would rather face jail and be able to look at
himself in the mirror than to participate in a system where the only people likely to
be punished for police torture were commissioners who objected to special prosecutors
failing to prosecute.
A more likely, less-drastic order from Judge Biebel could be to order the county
comptroller to cut the checks for the special prosecutors regardless of what the
county commissioners say.
Voting to disobey the judge were Democratic commissioners Jerry Butler, Forrest
Claypool, Collins, Roberto Maldonado, Joseph Moreno, Quigley, Robert Steele, and Larry
Suffredin. They were joined by Peraica, a Republican.
Voting to obey the judge were Democrats William Beavers, Joan Murphy and John Daley.
They were joined by Republicans Liz Gorman, Tim Schneider and Silvestri. Voting
present was Democrat Deborah Sims. Republican Gregg Goslin was absent for the vote.