A Mount Prospect woman who took on some of the most powerful forces in Chicago politics to clear her dead son's name said she was vindicated Monday after a special prosecutor indicted the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley on involuntary manslaughter charges.
The indictment, announced by special Cook County prosecutor Dan Webb, alleges Richard J. Vanecko "recklessly performed acts" that caused the death of 21-year-old David Koschman during an April 25, 2004, altercation outside a Rush Street bar.
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According to a statement from Webb, Vanecko, who stood 6 feet, 3 inches and 230 pounds, knocked the 5-foot-5, 125-pound Koschman to the ground during the early morning confrontation, causing the Mount Prospect man to hit his head on the pavement. Koschman died of his injuries 11 days later.
Chicago police and the Cook County state's attorney's office initially determined the Daley nephew acted in self-defense and declined to bring charges, leading to Nanci Koschman's eight-year campaign to get justice for her son.
"It's a good day, but it's still a sad day because my son is not with us still," she said Monday after the indictment was announced. "Tomorrow I'm going to tell David that he can be in peace, that someone has been charged."
Vanecko, 38, who now lives in California, could face two to five years in prison if found guilty. but Nanci Koschman said she does not want to see him incarcerated.
"To have him go to jail, what would that do?" she asked. "It would hurt his mother the way what happened to David hurt me.
"(An apology) would be nice," she added. "I don't think it's forthcoming, but it would be nice."
Vanecko's attorneys issued a statement Monday afternoon saying they are "disappointed" by the indictment and are confident their client ultimately will be found not guilty.
"This matter was investigated multiple times by the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office," the statement reads. "These agencies professionally investigate these types of incidents on a daily basis.
"Each time, the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office declined to bring criminal charges. These decisions were not because of favoritism, but because the facts did not warrant felony charges."
Vanecko is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 10.
More than seeing Vanecko charged, Nanci Koschman said what's driven her the last eight years has been the desire to prove her son was not to blame for his death, as she said police did in the immediate aftermath.
"I did it for David. I wanted his name cleared," she said. "When the detectives came in and said, 'It's all your son's fault,' that's like a knife through a mother's heart.
"I'm not going to go out and celebrate tonight," Koschman added. "I might have a glass of wine to help myself sleep. I'm still sad. I'll always be sad."
If their statement is any indication, it appears likely Vanecko's attorneys will continue to claim self-defense if the case goes to trial.
"While the death of David Koschman is no doubt a tragedy and a great loss to his mother and family, on the morning in question, he and four others in his group had been drinking extensively," the statement reads. "Our investigation has shown that Mr. Koschman was approximately three times over the legal limit, and was clearly acting in an unprovoked, physically aggressive manner."
In his announcement of the charge, Webb states that while his investigation into Koschman's death is complete, "the grand jury inquiry of how the authorities handled their investigation into Mr. Koschman's death continues at a vigorous pace."
That was welcome news to Nanci Koschman and her attorneys.
"Clearly that investigation needs to be completed," said attorney Locke E. Bowman, director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center.
"Clearly we need to have answers to the questions we are asking. It's more than time enough for those answers are forthcoming."