5:11 PM EST, December 3, 2012
This doesn’t happen in Chicago: the nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter in a case that was either ignored or bungled by local cops and local prosecutors for years.
Not in the Chicago many of us know, not in that place known to reporters and cops, where certain things just don’t happen, like an indictment of a relative of the fellow who was boss of Chicago for more than two decades.
It was a punch that killed. And for years, under two different state’s attorneys, there were no charges, nothing.
So I never thought I’d see it happen. And reporters I’ve talked to since the news broke never thought they’d see it happen either. But one reporter, the Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner, wrote last week that the work of the special prosecutor could wrap up this week. Meisner was right.
On Monday afternoon, special prosecutor Dan Webb, the former U.S. attorney in Chicago, announced it in a press release: Daley’s nephew, Richard “R.J.” Vanecko, had been indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman, a little guy who was punched outside a Division Street bar on April 25, 2004.
“Mr. Koschman was knocked to the ground by Mr. Vanecko, hitting his head on the pavement,” read the news release issued by Webb. “Eleven days later, Mr. Koschman died from the resulting injuries. At the time of the incident, Mr. Vanecko was 29 years old, 6’ 3” and 230 lbs., and Mr. Koschman was 21 years old, 5’5” and 125 pounds.”
The little guy had no chance. He had been drinking. According to Webb, he was outweighed by more than 100 pounds, and what Webb didn’t say was that it was 100 pounds of muscle. Koschman had no experience in that kind of confrontation.
It won’t be an easy trial, if there is a trial instead of a plea deal. A trial would let the city in on what was done and what wasn’t done, in those 11 days that Koschman was on life support.
What we’d all like to know is what happened, really, in those 11 days. Were the cops merely indifferent or were they worried about City Hall? Were the prosecutors worried as well? And why could Webb do what two other prosecutors couldn’t do?
“This is not a whodunit. We know who did it," Judge Michael Toomin said in April, when he appointed Webb as special prosecutor. "We have a known offender and yet no charges."
We’ve put out calls to former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine, and another to current State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, to ask them whether Webb’s investigation compromises their office. If they respond, I’ll tell you in the paper on Tuesday. If they don’t, I’ll tell you that, too.
A word about Webb. As I wrote in Sunday’s newspaper about the Koschman case, I was worried that Webb wouldn’t push the investigation.
But I was told by sources — and wrote it that way in the Sunday column — that Webb was going after this case with all the zeal he’d employed as a federal prosecutor for so many years.
By doing so, he’s brought some measure of justice to Koschman’s mom, Nanci Koschman, who was afraid that her son would be ignored and forgotten. And he brought a measure of justice to Chicago, which needs to understand that no one is above the law.
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