Chicago briefs: Cop says Vanecko never should have been charged

  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comDavid Koschman, who died in 2003 after a fight outside a Chicago bar.

    JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comDavid Koschman, who died in 2003 after a fight outside a Chicago bar.

Updated 8/30/2019 2:00 PM

It's been more than five years since former Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew Richard J. "R.J." Vanecko pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman of Mount Prospect.

Now, the last police officer facing disciplinary action in the high-profile case is arguing Koschman brought his death on himself -- and that Daley's nephew never should have been charged by a special prosecutor.


Sgt. Sam Cirone, saying he shouldn't be punished, and four others involved in the investigation have testified to the Chicago Police Board, which will decide Cirone's fate.

And all agreed: Daley's nephew shouldn't have been charged.

That's even though Vanecko, who served two months in jail following an investigation by special prosecutor Dan K. Webb, admitted to punching the 21-year-old in the face during a drunken argument near Rush Street on April 25, 2004.

Cirone's lawyer James P. McKay Jr. told hearing officer Thomas Johnson this month that the only reason Daley's nephew was charged was because of public pressure resulting from a Chicago Sun-Times investigation.

Regarding the five Chicago Police Department rules that Cirone is accused of violating, which involve his supervision of detectives on the case, McKay said, "The charges are nothing more than the fault of somebody at City Hall who's afraid to tell the media, 'Screw you.' "

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And McKay went further, blaming Koschman, who never struck anyone, for his own death.

"I say this with all due respect to Mrs. Koschman, the reason her son isn't here today is because he started something he couldn't finish," McKay said.

Told what McKay said about her son, Nanci Koschman said: "I don't care what David said or did. There was no justification for this guy to punch my son and then run away. When he ran away, he knew he shouldn't have done it."

Lightfoot warns of 'hard choices' to fix budget

Mayor Lori Lightfoot entered the living rooms of Chicagoans in a televised address Thursday to warn of "hard choices" ahead -- and revealed the bad-news number all were waiting for: an $838 million deficit.

Lightfoot said no options are off the table to tackle the city's financial crisis -- and she vowed to solve it.

"Some of our solutions will be hard. Yes, they may involve putting ourselves at risk. And if it means that I sacrifice myself politically, so be it in pursuit of the right thing," Lightfoot said. "We don't have a moment to lose."


Holiday crime-fighting strategy: 'flood the zone'

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she'll "flood the zone" over Labor Day weekend, upping police presence in the city to try to reduce gun violence.

Lightfoot and Chicago

"These holidays don't sneak up on us every year," Police Superinendent Eddies Johnson said, explaining the rationale behind the increased presence. "What we do is we look at the successes we made from Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. So we'll be putting, you know, upward of 1,000 additional officers out there again in a lot of our challenging areas."

That will include Cook County Sheriff's officers, federal partners and Illinois State Police, making for a "heavier uniformed presence," Johnson said.

Undercover officers will also be deployed.

New plan in place to track gun offenders

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson say they are planning monthly meetings with Cook County, state and federal officials in an effort to share data to better track the city's worst gun offenders.

"Our aim is to take a wide view of how gun cases make their way through the system, identifying gaps and closing loopholes," Johnson said.

He described the new GunStat initiative as "putting all of our cards on the table."

The meetings are expected to include representatives from the city, the Cook County state's attorney's office, the Cook County sheriff's office, the U.S. attorney's office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

New rules approved for cops in schools

An agreement that set new ground rules for officers working in Chicago Public School has been approved despite months of public scrutiny and heavy criticism from students and one school board member who voted against the measure.

The intergovernmental agreement laid out which scenarios should -- and which should not -- involve Chicago police officers stationed in schools, how the officers are selected for different schools and how a school can remove its officers.

The new rules came after 19 community meetings held at the end of the last school year and over the summer in which school and police representatives heard concerns and suggestions for reform.

The plan passed 5-1 at the board of education's monthly meeting, but hours earlier a dozen students stood outside CPS headquarters downtown and urged the school district to keep officers out of schools.

• This report was assembled in collaboration with the Chicago Sun-Times.

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