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updated: 8/11/2011 10:48 AM

Daley fights torture lawsuit

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  • Richard M. Daley

    Richard M. Daley

  • Former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge was convicted last year of lying about the torture of suspects decades ago.

    Former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge was convicted last year of lying about the torture of suspects decades ago.
    Associated Press, 2010

Associated Press

Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is fighting a judge's ruling that he remain as a defendant in a lawsuit filed over decades-old allegations of police torture.

Daley is one of 16 defendants being sued by Michael Tillman, a man who claims Chicago police beat and kicked him, and conducted a crude form of waterboarding with soda to force him to confess to a 1986 murder.

Tillman's suit also names several police officers working under the command of former police Lt. Jon Burge, who was convicted last year of lying about the torture of suspects. He's serving a 4-year sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. Burge is also named in the suit.

More than 100 men -- most of them black and Latino -- have alleged Burge and his men tortured them from the 1970s to the 1990s. Attorneys say 15 men with torture claims against Burge or his officers are still incarcerated, and several others have been released from prison and exonerated. At least six men have civil suits pending against Burge.

Tillman served nearly 24 years in prison before being freed in 2010 and has received a certificate of innocence from Cook County circuit court.

Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney for eight years before becoming mayor, has been named in previous lawsuits filed by alleged torture victims, but judges have always dismissed him as a defendant, citing the absolute immunity given to prosecutors.

But Tillman argued that Daley could still be sued for his conduct as mayor, and Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer agreed, ruling in July that Daley should remain as a defendant on counts that accuse him of participating in an conspiracy to cover up torture during the time he was mayor.

Daley, who stepped down as mayor in May after 22 years in office, filed a motion Friday asking Pallmeyer to reconsider her decision, saying it "was based on a mistake of law." He's asking to be dismissed from Tillman's suit, which would allow him to avoid a request by Tillman's lawyers that he be deposed on Sept. 8. The judge hasn't issued a ruling on the motion.

A message left for Daley's attorney wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.

Pallmeyer's ruling is "a very significant victory in the case," said Tillman's attorney, Flint Taylor. "It's the first time that a federal judge has acknowledged that Daley was part of a conspiracy to cover up the torture."

"We're hopeful she won't back down from that position," Taylor said.