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Article updated: 2/4/2014 10:53 PM

Vanecko report: No influence from former mayor, family, staff

Special prosecutor: Former mayor didn’t have influence on nephew’s case

David Koschman

David Koschman

 
Nanci Koschman of Mount Prospect holds a photo of her son, David, who died after Richard Vanecko hit him during an altercation outside a Chicago bar.

Nanci Koschman of Mount Prospect holds a photo of her son, David, who died after Richard Vanecko hit him during an altercation outside a Chicago bar.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

Richard Vanecko

Richard Vanecko

 
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A long-awaited special prosecutor's report on the 2004 death of Mount Prospect resident David Koschman says neither former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley nor his family, staff or security detail influenced or tried to influence the investigation.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb's 162-page report -- made public today -- concludes a 17-month investigation during which Webb and his team interviewed more than 146 witnesses and reviewed 22,000 documents totaling more than 300,000 pages.

While no police or prosecutors were charged with impeding the investigation, Webb's report points to a "slight circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing."

Koschman, a 21-year-old Harper College student, died from head injuries 11 days after he was knocked down by a punch thrown by Richard Vanecko, a nephew of the former mayor, at about 3:15 a.m. April 25, 2004, outside a bar on Division Street in Chicago.

Koschman and his friends had an altercation with Vanecko and his friends, who had come from the engagement party of another Daley relative.

Vanecko was not charged until December 2012, when a grand jury handed down an indictment for involuntary manslaughter. He pleaded guilty to the charges Friday and was sentenced to 30 months' probation and ordered to spend 60 days in jail followed by 60 days of home confinement. He was also ordered to pay $20,000 to the Koschman family.

A contrite Vanecko apologized to David's mother, Nanci Koschman, before a packed courtroom in Rolling Meadows as a condition of the plea agreement.

Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb, a former U.S. attorney, in April 2012 after allegations surfaced that Vanecko received special treatment from Chicago police and Cook County prosecutors because of his connection to the former mayor.

Toomin ordered Webb to investigate whether "employees of the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state's attorney's office acted intentionally to suppress and conceal evidence, furnish false evidence and generally impede the investigation into Mr. Koschman's death."

Webb completed his investigation in September 2013. Citing the statute of limitations on prosecution, he announced that no police officers or prosecutors would face charges for their part in the initial 2004 investigation. Webb also announced there was insufficient evidence to prove police or prosecutors involved in 2011's follow-up investigation violated the law.

The second investigation was prompted by media reports alleging political clout influenced handling of the case.

Daley told the special prosecutor he learned about Koschman's death "sometime" after it occurred. The former mayor, who stated he had recused himself from the Koschman matter, said he had no substantive discussion with his staff about the investigation and never instructed anyone in the handling of the matter, the report said.

Koschman's family disputed the report's findings on Daley's involvement.

"What happened here was an investigation that was treated as a political football from day 1," said Locke Bowman, the Koschmans' family attorney, according to ABC 7 Chicago.

Webb's report nevertheless paints an unflattering picture of the handling of the case. It cites missing police and prosecutor files, including the original homicide file lost and then "discovered" in 2011 "conspicuously displayed" in a sergeants' office, "an area that had been searched numerous times previously."

Chicago police knew about a week after Koschman died on May 6, 2004, that Vanecko was involved. A detective on the case told David's mother that police knew the offender -- whom the detective described as a "pretty prominent figure" and "not a regular guy walking down the street" -- but could "not get him charged," the report said.

That same detective argued for involuntary manslaughter charges, but the Cook County prosecutor in charge of felony review at the time declined, saying the charges would be dismissed. The report says the prosecutor claimed Koschman was the aggressor and that Vanecko acted in self-defense, even though Vanecko is 6 feet, 3 inches and 230 pounds and Koschman stood 5 feet, 5 inches and weighed 125 pounds.

No credible evidence suggests Koschman was physically aggressive toward Vanecko, the report states.

It says detectives in 2011 based their self-defense theory on untrustworthy statements from a Vanecko friend who had previously lied to police. That claim "was conjured in the minds of law enforcement," the report said.

The report references "corrections" related to self-defense claims in drafts of detectives' 2011 report. While an earlier draft made no mention of self-defense, a later draft concluded Vanecko acted in self-defense. The special prosecutor found the detectives and their superior officers who sent email "corrections" provided plausible explanations for doing so.

Additionally, Webb concluded he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that officers manufactured a phony self-defense claim, the report said.

The Koschmans' attorneys said they are exploring the possibility of civil action, ABC 7 reported.

"An apology is the very least the Chicago Police Department could offer Nanci Koschman at this time," Bowman said.

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