CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County's chief judge asked the Illinois Supreme Court on Monday to appoint a judge from outside the county to preside over the involuntary manslaughter case of a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, hours after a judge with ties to Daley recused himself.
In a letter to the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, Judge Timothy Evans wrote that another judge had, upon the request of attorneys for the special prosecutor, agreed that an outside judge should be appointed to avoid any "appearance of impropriety."
Monday's request illustrates just how politically charged the case of Richard Vanecko is. Vanecko is charged in the 2004 death of David Koschman, but the same special grand jury that indicted Vanecko is also investigating whether authorities covered up or impeded the investigation into the Koschman's death because of Vanecko's relationship to the powerful Daley.
The 38-year-old Vanecko has pleaded not guilty. Koschman died days after he fell and struck his head during a fight with Vanecko outside a bar in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood
On Monday, even as Judge Arthur Hill stressed that he believed he could have impartially handled the case, he recognized that he should not do so, saying during a court hearing Monday that "in an abundance of caution, I am recusing myself form further proceedings."
Last week, Hill announced that he once worked for Daley as a prosecutor when Daley was Cook County State's Attorney, and was appointed to the board of the Chicago Transit Authority during Daley's mayoral stint.
Defense attorney Thomas Breen said assigning the case to an outside judge would be "rather insulting" to Cook County judges, adding that there was "no apparent conflict" that would make such a move unnecessary.
But Daley has long cast a shadow over the case.
A judge appointed former U.S. attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor, because the judge agreed there was evidence to support allegations of police misconduct, including ignoring or falsely recording witness statements and labeling the victim as the aggressor.
After Vanecko was indicted earlier this month, Koschman's mother said to reporters that a police detective told her post-fight that she would be "impressed" by who Vanecko was related to and that if she filed a lawsuit, Vanecko's family had the wherewithal to tie the case up in court "for years."