After nearly eight years, a Mount Prospect mother might finally get some answers about whether the investigation into the death of her 21-year-old son was politically motivated.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin ruled Friday that a special prosecutor will look into the death of David Koschman, a Mount Prospect resident and Harper College student who died from brain injuries about two weeks after he was punched in the face and fell to the ground following an altercation outside a Chicago bar in the early morning of April 25, 2004.
Chicago police said Richard J. "R.J." Vanecko, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, threw the punch. No charges were filed after two police investigations, one of which concluded Vanecko acted in self-defense.
Koschman family members claim Vanecko's relationship to Daley compromised the initial investigation. They also allege police cover-ups and claim political ties to Daley made the Cook County state's attorney office unfit to handle the case.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez denied any conflict of interest. After the judge's ruling, Alvarez said she would not appeal the decision and will cooperate with whoever is named special prosecutor.
"I continue to believe I have no legal conflict of interest that would have prevented me from handling the Koschman case," Alvarez said.
When the judge read his conclusion Friday, David's mother, Nanci Koschman, broke into tears and hugged her sister.
"I hope I finally get some justice for David," she said afterward. "I'll go see him this afternoon in the cemetery and tell him that."
Vanecko, who opposed appointing a special prosecutor, could not be reached for comment.
Toomin's ruling marks an important moment not just for David Koschman's family but for Cook County's criminal justice system, said Koschman family attorney Locke E. Bowman of the Northwestern University Law School's Roderick MacArthur Justice Center.
"The ruling made perfectly clear that somebody is going to be appointed to get to the bottom of this terribly flawed investigation," Bowman said. "There really is a massive disconnect between the recollections of witnesses on April 25, 2004, and the way the Chicago Police Department and the state's attorneys office wrote this case up."
"The one thing the Koschman family has asked for is that the circumstances surrounding David's death be investigated fairly, impartially, independently and without favor to any person," Bowman said. "That's what they want. Nothing more and nothing less."
• ABC 7 and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Look: State's attorney denies conflict of interest