CHICAGO (AP) — The nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the 2004 death of a suburban Chicago man whose family suggested there was a police cover-up in the initial investigation into the fatal fight.
Richard Vanecko, 38, was arraigned during a brief court appearance Monday morning.
Last week, Vanecko was indicted by a Cook County special grand jury in the death of David Koschman of Mount Prospect. Koschman died days after he fell and struck his head during a fight with Vanecko outside a bar in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.
The indictment states that "through the use of physical force and without lawful justification, (Vanecko) recklessly performed acts which were likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another, and such acts caused the death of David Koschman."
The grand jury is continuing its inquiry into whether authorities covered up or impeded the investigation because of Vanecko's political ties.
The judge who appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as the special prosecutor agreed in April that there was evidence to support allegations of police misconduct in the initial investigation, including ignoring or falsely recording witness statements and labeling the victim as the aggressor.
In public statements, prosecutors and police portrayed Vanecko as acting in self-defense despite never having interviewed or spoken to him, the judge said when he ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor.
In a statement last week, Webb said that the grand jury's investigation into whether the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state attorney's office "acted intentionally to suppress and conceal evidence, furnish false evidence and generally impede the investigation" is continuing "at a vigorous pace."
Webb's statement did not hint at what, if any, conclusions have been reached, only that "thousands of documents have been reviewed and more than fifty witnesses have been interviewed." The release also included that Koschman was 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds, while Vanecko, then 29, was 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds.
On Monday, Associate Judge Arthur Francis Hill, who is assigned to oversee the criminal proceedings, told defense attorneys and special prosecutors that he had once worked under Daley.
Hill said he believed he would be fair and impartial but that they could take a few days to decide if they would prefer a new judge to preside over the case. Hill said he worked as an assistant prosecutor when Daley headed the Cook County State's Attorney's office, and that after Daley became mayor he appointed Hill to the Chicago Transit Authority board.
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