After nearly a decade, Nanci Koschman finally has the apology she sought and the peace of mind that has eluded her since the 2004 death of her son, David.
On Friday, Richard J. Vanecko, nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of the 21-year-old Mount Prospect man, who died after an altercation with Vanecko outside a Chicago bar on April 25, 2004.
Addressing the court, a tearful Nanci Koschman said she was never out for revenge, only answers about what happened to her son, whom she described as "the light in my eyes, my heart and my soul."
"This has never been about me. It has always been about David," she said.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Vanecko, 39, will serve 30 months of probation, the maximum allowed for the class 2 felony. He will also spend 60 days in jail, followed by 60 days of home confinement, and he will pay $20,000 to the Koschman family. And Friday afternoon, before a packed courtroom and McHenry County Judge Maureen McIntyre, he apologized.
"If I could undo what was done, I would. I extend my sincerest apologies," said Vanecko, who will likely serve his jail sentence in McHenry County after his attorneys expressed concern for his safety in Cook County jail.
Vanecko's plea ended a struggle Nanci Koschman has waged for nearly a decade.
"This is all I ever wanted, was for someone to say, 'I'm sorry,'" she said after the hearing, adding, "I knew it was as difficult for him to say as it was for me to hear."
In her statement to the court, Nanci Koschman said she "knew in her heart" that Vanecko never intended to kill David, but "regardless of what my son did that night, he did not deserve to die," she said.
The altercation came at about 3:15 a.m. on Division Street in Chicago. Koschman and some friends "crossed paths" with Vanecko and his friends, said special prosecutor Dan Webb. An argument ensued, and then Vanecko struck Koschman once in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head on the pavement, Webb said. Vanecko and a friend left in a cab and met up with the other members of their group a short time later at a Chicago bar called The Pepper Canister.
Koschman died 11 days later from his injuries.
Referencing other "one-punch" cases, Webb recommended probation based on the lack of premeditation and the spontaneous nature of the act he called "reckless and irresponsible."
"Today Mrs. Koschman received justice," he said. And while neither she nor her family sought jail time, Webb said he felt it was appropriate in light of David Koschman's death.
The act was spontaneous, Webb said, "but the consequences were horrific."
After allegations surfaced that Vanecko received special treatment from Chicago police and Cook County prosecutors because of his family ties, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb, a former U.S. attorney, as special prosecutor. Webb, who last year indicated no police or prosecutors will faces charges for their roles in the investigation, issued a 162-page report detailing how investigators handled the case. That report will likely be made public on Monday, he said.
As for Nanci Koschman, she says the long fight was worthwhile.
"I have peace of mind knowing I received justice for David," she said.