Murder, the Chicago Way

Posted: Dec 10, 2012 12:01 AM

In 2004, a nephew of Chicago’s then-mayor Richie Daley got into an altercation off of Rush Street, the Windy City’s alcohol-fueled playground for revelers and romancers. Taunts were thrown, obscenities exchanged, and in an instant, a kid from the suburbs, David Koschman, who was just 21 years old at the time, fell backwards, his head making an audible thump as it contacted the street.

Editor's note: This column orginally ran December 6th, 2012.

A friend says that he was unconscious before he hit the ground  

According to witnesses R. J. Vanecko, a current Daley nephew and a former college lineman who weighed in a 230 pounds and stands 6-feet-3, either punched or shoved Koschman, who was 5-feet-5, 125 pounds, outside a bar after both had been drinking. Koschman never regained consciousness. He died from injuries 11 days later after his mother removed him from life support.    

For eight years the Chicago police couldn’t find enough evidence, the Cook County State’s Attorney couldn’t find enough evidence, and the Illinois State Police couldn’t find enough evidence to indict Vanecko with a crime.

In fact, they could be barely trusted to investigate it as a crime. Somehow the felony file on the case ended up missing. True: They couldn’t find the file. Still can’t.   

Oh, no. Not in Chicago!

The boys in blue, sworn “To serve and protect”, barely mumbled excuse after excuse; the detectives went on vacation; Vanecko’s friends changed their story; the police wrote down statements from Koschman’s friends that they say they never made…the usual Chicago drill of “serving and protecting.”

It’s great to be served and protected when you are “someone” in Chicago.   

So it surprised all of us that on Monday, December 4, 2012, a grand jury finally indicted Vanecko for involuntary manslaughter, seven months after a judge ordered a special prosecutor in the case.  

“The grand jury found that Richard J. Vanecko ‘recklessly performed acts which were likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another’ in Koschman’s death in 2004, according to the indictment,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

Some people call that murder, but manslaughter will do as well.

As Michael Toomin, the judge who ordered the special prosecutor observed “This is not a whodunit . . . When you have a dead body, someone’s going to jail. Not in this case.”

Yeah, not in Chicago.  

The Cook County State’s Attorney who was then responsible for investigating the crime is a long-time Daley family friend, Richard “Dick” Devine. Devine, gone from the State’s Attorney’s office is now representing Vanecko’s older brother Robert. Robert is being sued for allegedly mismanaging $68 million in city pension funds.

And what story about Chicago isn’t complete without city pension funds being mismanaged by a nephew of a “someone.”

“While professing impartiality, [the state’s attorney’s office] essentially has endeavored to denigrate the evidence against Vanecko,” said Toomin, “a rather unusual strategy for an objective prosecutor to embrace.”

Yeah, not in Chicago.

So what happened? How did this miscarriage of justice, this travesty, finally go wrong for the “someones” in Chicago?

The judge, the special prosecutor and everyone else who let this case go forward aren’t political novices. Nothing happens in politics by accident.

Not in Chicago.

Files aren’t lost, pension mismanagement cases aren’t prosecuted and defended and special prosecutors aren’t assigned unless “someone” knows “something” about it.     

Dan Webb, the special prosecutor who was appointed by Judge Toomin, prosecuted corrupt judges in Chicago and is well-known for his strong political ties. Webb has donated fairly large amounts of money to Mitt Romney, Barrack Obama, the Democrat National Committee, the Republican National Committee, Rudi Gulliani and John McCain. He’s also a regular contributor to his firm’s PAC -Winston Strawn- which has contributed $38,000 to Democrats in 2012 and $27,000 to the GOP. Winston Strawn has also generated about $14 million in lobbying income since Obama became president- although they routinely generated more income for lobbying under the Bush administration.

And when Webb promised to investigate the case aggressively, you can be sure that “someone” knew “something.”

Because Richie Daley isn’t mayor anymore, and Jesse Jackson Jr. is under a federal investigation so serious that he did the mental-hospital-hideout usually reserved for Mafioso.

And what “someone” would have the most to gain by getting those “someones” like Daley and Jackson out the way?

Think of the biggest Chicago “someone” not in Chicago.

So will justice be done for David Koschman and his family, finally?

Yeah, but not on purpose; not in Chicago.