Late on an April night in 2004, Richard Vanecko, the nephew of then Mayor Richard M. Daley, threw a single punch at David Koschman on a sidewalk in Downtown Chicago. Vanecko, Koschman, and the small groups accompanying them had been drinking. An argument broke out, and the blow from the 6’3″, 230lb Vanecko drove the 5’5″, 125lb Koschman to the pavement. Koschman’s head struck the cement with such force that he died 12 days later in a Chicago hospital.
The police investigation didn’t begin until after David Koschman died. “[Police] didn’t conduct lineups to try to identify who threw the punch until almost a month after it happened,” during which time, Vanecko had shaved his head in order to change his appearance. Though no one at the lineup could identify him, when the case was re-opened in 2011 in response to a series of investigative articles and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Chicago Sun-Times, police admitted they had known who threw the punch shortly after the event took place. Both police and prosecutors withheld the name of Richard Vanecko from the public for 7 years.
In 2004, although the Cook County medical examiner labeled Koschman’s death a homicide, prosecutors shut down the investigation and refused to file charges because police claimed witnesses told detectives that Koschman was the aggressor, and that he charged at Vanecko’s group after its members had turned to walk away. As a result, the official position of Chicago police was that Vanecko (who they have NEVER questioned about the killing) had acted in self-defense.
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Though each of Koschman’s friends told detectives that David was NOT the aggressor and that he had been “sucker punched” by Vanecko, prosecutors quickly agreed with the self-defense assessment by Chicago police. Anita Alvarez, “…a top prosecutor under Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine,” claimed that: “All witnesses who were questioned indicated that Koschman was the aggressor and had initiated the physical confrontation by charging at members of the other group…”
Of course, prior to being elected state’s attorney himself, Richard Devine “…was the top deputy to Vanecko’s uncle, Richard M. Daley, when Daley was state’s attorney.”
Upon opening the 2011 re-investigation, “…prosecutors claimed their files on the case “had disappeared.” Even so, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said it would “…stand by its initial conclusion that no one should be charged.” When asked his opinion of the lost file, Criminal Defense Attorney Richard King, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, said: “They declined charges, but they can’t find the file?” “I’ve been doing this for 39 years, literally thousands of cases. I’ve never seen a felony-review file missing. Ever. Never heard of one.”
Given concerns about the way in which both the 2004 and 2011 investigations of David Koschman’s death were conducted, attorneys representing David’s mother, Nanci Koschman, asked Cook County Judge Michael Toomin to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the actions of both Chicago police and the Cook County Prosecutor’s Office. Stating that in his opinion the self-defense rationale was constructed by the police “from whole cloth,” Judge Toomin appointed former United States Attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor.
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Webb conducted a 17 month investigation into events surrounding the death of Koschman; and on March 24, 2014, attorneys filed a 44 page Complaint on behalf of Nanci Koschman. Named in the Complaint are Richard Vanecko, “unidentified” Daley family members, and 25 Chicago police and Cook County Prosecutors, including Richard Devine and Anita Alvarez. The Complaint accuses defendants of “…continuing [a] cover-up conspiracy that was designed to deny Mrs. Koschman…her Constitutional rights and to protect the Daley family from criminal prosecution, civil liability, and political embarrassment.”
On February 1st, 39 year old Richard Vanecko plead guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter before McHenry County Judge Maureen McIntyre. In a plea agreement reached by special prosecutor Dan Webb and Vanecko’s attorneys, Vanecko will spend 60 days in jail, 60 days of monitored home confinement, and 2 1/2 years of probation. He will also pay $20,000 in restitution to Mrs. Koschman and apologize for his actions. Though hardly a severe sentence, this might be the most expensive felony rap with which the Daley family has ever been connected. Undoubtedly, they walked away scot-free from most.
Vanecko’s plea agreement came 2 weeks before his trial on manslaughter charges was scheduled to begin.
As Rahm Emanuel is unlikely to stick his neck out by continuing the original cover up, it’s just possible that participants in the Daley dynasty will feel a little heat. Wouldn’t THAT be a change of pace for people in the Windy City!
Photo credit: Chris Eaves (Flickr)