Koschman mom prays Webb has answers
Originally published Sept. 20, 2013
By CHRIS FUSCO, TIM NOVAK AND CAROL MARIN
Nanci Koschman is frustrated and still waiting for answers more than nine years after her son’s death.
But now she says she’s convinced that her only child, David, wasn’t just a victim of a crime but also of City Hall corruption.
That’s her take now that special prosecutor Dan K. Webb has concluded too much time has passed to criminally charge any police or prosecutors over the way they investigated her son’s death in 2004 after a drunken encounter with a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Webb also concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to convict any police officers in their reinvestigation of Koschman’s death in 2011 but still called the entire case “troubling.”
Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko — who was charged in December with involuntary manslaughter, after Webb was appointed to reinvestigate the case — awaits trial.
“That’s such a big word for a little person who lives in Mount Prospect: corruption,” the 65-year-old widow and doctor’s receptionist told the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 in an hourlong interview. “Corruption’s not a word I associated with the death of my son.”
She thinks about the time David lay in a coma before she took him off life support.
“In those 11 days, the word ‘corruption’ was never even thought about,” she said.
Now, after Webb put out a five-page statement on Thursday declaring his investigation of the Chicago Police Department and Cook County state’s attorney’s office is over, Koschman said, “Yeah, I guess I am a part of a corruption case.
“When I read that thing, yeah, there was misconduct back in 2004. But because the statute of limitations is up, they can’t do anything.”
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David Koschman fell and cracked his head on Division Street west of Dearborn after Vanecko punched him during a drunken quarrel on April 25, 2004, according to police reports.
He was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. But within hours, the Chicago Police Department stopped investigating. The detectives originally assigned to the case went on vacation. The police didn’t resume investigating until after Koschman had died.
“In my naïveté, I thought they were out looking into it,” Nanci Koschman said.
“Does that fall on me? I should have been there to say, ‘Hey, they’re making a mess of this? They messed it up?’
“What happened in those days in-between? Why wasn’t something done? If David would have been punched by a total stranger, would things have happened differently?
“I’d like to see those first 11 days. What did they do? When that detective called me and said, ‘Here’s the case number, did she just say, ‘OK,’ and then throw it aside and she went off on vacation and nobody even thought about him when I was watching him die in front of my eyes?
“I’m hoping and I’m praying that’s what Dan Webb found out.”
Koschman wonders whether there are answers to her questions in Webb’s 162-page report on his 17-month investigation, the investigation that finally led to Vanecko being charged.
She will have to wait to find out. At Webb’s request, Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin has temporarily sealed the report out of concern it could hurt Vanecko’s chances for a fair trial.
Vanecko, 39, who lives in southern California, is free on bail. He returns to court Tuesday.
Koschman said she is “frustrated” the report’s release was delayed.
“It’s like a roller-coaster,” she said. “Peaks and valleys. You feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve gotten to the top.’ And someone goes, ‘You’re not quite there yet.’
“I’ve been told the grand jury had met, the grand jury is finished, they’re writing the report. And so I was climbing up that little ladder, going, ‘OK, I’m gonna finally get some answers.’ And then the phone call said they’d finished, it’s 162 pages, but it’s been sealed. And I went right down. So that’s hard to deal with, that up-and-down of the emotions.”
Koschman’s death remained an unsolved homicide until a Sun-Times investigation in early 2011 prompted the police to reinvestigate and then close the case, concluding that Vanecko punched Koschman in self-defense.
A series of Sun-Times reports that questioned why the investigation was halted, why case files had gone missing and how police could conclude Vanecko acted in self-defense when he had refused to speak to them prompted Nanci Koschman and her attorneys, Locke Bowman of Northwestern University’s MacArthur Justice Center and G. Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office, to file the court petition that convinced Toomin to reopen the case and appoint Webb in April 2012.
“I’m just blessed that Judge Toomin gave the opportunity to have a special prosecutor,” Koschman said. “I was blessed that Dan Webb took on the case.
“I respect everything that has been done. But nobody’s giving me answers. I respect Judge Toomin saying, ‘Let’s seal it until after the trial.’ But there’s a part of me that says, ‘Could you just send me the first four pages?’ . . . I guess I want to know: Could I have made a difference in all of this if I handled it differently?
“As a mother, you’re always gonna blame yourself. As wonderful as all this information has been, as enlightening as it’s been . . . I’ve learned a lot more about the legal system, I’ve learned about cover-ups, I’ve learned about missing files and the one that was found suddenly on the top of a filing cabinet how many years later.”
Despite the peaks and valleys — and knowing there are more to come — Koschman says she doesn’t regret asking Toomin to appoint a special prosecutor.
“I am very glad I did it. . . . Will it change things? I don’t think I’ll become a symbol of anything other than a mom fighting for her child, which all moms would do — or dads.
“I’d like to think that the next person that’s hit or involved in something with someone semi-famous or famous, it would be handled differently.
“Am I sure it’s going to happen? No. I’m not stupid enough to think that.”