Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, left, with his attorneys. | Jessica Koscielniak / Chicago Sun-Times

Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, left, with his attorneys. | Jessica Koscielniak / Chicago Sun-Times

Vanecko trial set for Feb. 18

Originally published Sept. 24, 2013

By Chris Fusco and Tim Novak
Staff Reporters

A nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley will stand trial Feb. 18 for involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman.

Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko’s trial is expected to last more than a week. It will be held at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California.

Vanecko, 39, of Costa Mesa, Calif., and his lawyers didn’t comment as they left a hearing Tuesday before McHenry County Judge Maureen P. McIntyre in Rolling Meadows.

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Special prosecutor Dan K. Webb, who will try Vanecko, also declined to comment.

Webb led the grand jury that indicted Vanecko last Dec. 3, finding that Vanecko used “physical force and, without lawful justification, recklessly performed acts which were likely to cause death or great bodily harm” to Koschman.

Koschman, 21, of Mount Prospect, died 11 days after a drunken confrontation with Vanecko, then 28, in the Rush Street area on April 25, 2004, according to police reports. Koschman fell and hit his head on the pavement after being punched.

The case was classified as an unsolved homicide until early 2011, when a Chicago Sun-Times request to see case files prompted the Chicago Police Department to take a new look at the case.

The police then closed the case without seeking charges, concluding Vanecko threw the punch that led to Koschman’s death but acted in self-defense. Vanecko wouldn’t speak with detectives. And witnesses disputed that it was self-defense.

At the request of Koschman’s mother Nanci Koschman, Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin appointed a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the case, including the conduct of police and prosecutors.

Webb wrapped up his investigation last week without charging anyone else. He said too much time had passed to charge anyone involved in the 2004 investigation and that there was insufficient evidence to convict anyone in connection with the 2011 reinvestigation.

Noting that many Cook County judges have ties to the Daley family, the Illinois Supreme Court decided the case should be heard by a judge from another county.