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State high court: Daley statements in nephew's case won't be made public.

Byline: Chicago Sun-Times

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday ruled against releasing statements former Mayor Richard M. Daley and his family gave a special prosecutor during the investigation that sent Daleys nephew Richard J. "R.J." Vanecko to jail for killing David Koschman of Mount Prospect.

The court rejected arguments by the Better Government Association that it was in the public interest to reveal what the former mayor and his family told Dan K. Webb, the court-appointed special prosecutor in the Koschman case.

It also rejected making public any emails that Webb exchanged with the Daley family, a list of witnesses interviewed by the special prosecutors office and subpoenas issued to City Hall. All of the records, which the BGA sued to get, were sealed, at Webbs request, by Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin.

After a Chicago Sun-Times investigation, the judge appointed Webb in 2011 to reinvestigate Koschmans death a case the Chicago Police Department had closed without an arrest after two investigations while Daley was in office.

Vanecko pleaded guilty five years ago to involuntary manslaughter and did two months in jail. He had been charged as a result of the special prosecutors investigation.

Webb found fault with the police handling of the case but said he decided not to charge any Chicago cops for failing to arrest Vanecko in Koschmans 2004 death because he didnt think he had enough evidence to convict anyone of official misconduct or obstruction of justice.

Citing the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, the BGA and the Sun-Times tried to obtain records from City Hall regarding Webbs investigation, including subpoenas it got from the grand jury. But City Hall refused, citing Toomins order.

The BGA sued for those records and any statements Webb got from Daley and other family members including drafts of statements the special prosecutor allowed them to review and edit before they were presented to the grand jury. The grand jurors werent allowed to question Daley or his relatives.

State law protects grand jury secrecy. But BGA attorney Matthew Topic argued that doesnt trump the FOIA law.

"We disagree with the BGAs assertion that disclosure of the requested grand jury material was in the public interest," Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. wrote in a 20-page opinion. "In discussing the need for maintaining secrecy of grand jury proceedings in the federal court system ... the United States Supreme Court has held that disclosure of grand jury materials is appropriate only in cases where the need for disclosure outweighs the public interest in secrecy."

Six justices, including Anne Burke, the wife of Alderman Edward M. Burke, concurred. Justice Bob Thomas "took no part in the decision," court records show.

David Greising, the BGAs president and chief executive officer, called the ruling "a setback in the fight to hold public officials accountable for their actions."

Koschman died from injuries suffered when he and friends from Mount Prospect out celebrating their 21st birthdays in the Rush Street area crossed paths with Vanecko and his friends early on April 25, 2004. There was an argument, and Koschman, who was 5-feet-5 and 125 pounds, got punched in the face by the 6-feet-3, 230-pound Vanecko. Vanecko, then 29, and a friend ran off. Koschman died 11 days later from brain injuries. The police later put Vanecko in a lineup but didnt press charges, saying no one identified him.

The case was unsolved until 2011, when a Sun-Times investigation led the police to re-examine the case, which they quickly closed, again without charges, concluding Vanecko hit Koschman in self-defense.

* This report was produced in partnership with the Chicago Sun-Times. For the complete story and related coverage, visit chicago.suntimes.com.
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jan 26, 2019
Words:612
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