Koschman mom settles with Alvarez for $50,000
Published Sept. 11, 2015
By TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has agreed to a $50,000 settlement with David Koschman’s mother, who on Friday agreed to drop her court fight accusing prosecutors of taking part in a coverup to keep a nephew of former Mayor Richard. M. Daley from being charged in the death of her son.
The $50,000 payment will come from Cook County taxpayers.
The settlement comes five months after City Hall paid Nanci Koschman $250,000 to drop similar claims against the Chicago Police Department and 21 current or former police officers who investigated the case in 2004 and 2011, both times refusing to charge Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko.
Vanecko, 40, is on probation after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter last year and serving 60 days in jail for throwing the punch that led to David Koschman’s death from a brain injury 11 years ago.
Nanci Koschman filed a federal lawsuit alleging a politically motivated coverup by police and prosecutors to protect Vanecko shortly after his guilty plea. But the odds of the case succeeding became stacked against her a year ago when a federal judge ruled that she had waited too long to file it.
Her lawyers, Locke Bowman and G. Flint Taylor, appealed on her behalf. But Koschman said in an interview Friday evening that she was ready to end nearly four years of legal battling that began with her decision to seek a special prosecutor to reinvestigate her son’s death in late 2011.
“I’m OK. It’s the end of a good fight,” Nanci Koschman said. “Did I win everything I wanted to? No, I didn’t get my son back.”
Koschman also said learning the truth about her son was her ultimate goal. Initially, she was led to believe her son was to blame for his own death. In reality, Daley’s nephew, then 29, ran away after hitting Koschman, 21, but Vanecko was never interviewed by the Chicago Police Department.
“I think I’ve accomplished a lot,” Nanci Koschman said. “Everybody knows what happened. I found out how it happened, who did it. And I found out there are repercussions if you hit somebody and run.”
Alvarez’s decision to settle comes after she unsuccessfully fought Koschman’s request for a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate her son’s death in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation.
The newspaper had raised questions about the way David Koschman’s case had been handled, finding files were missing in both the police department and prosecutors’ office and witnesses saying the police twisted their statements to make it seem Koschman had provoked Vanecko into striking him during a drunken argument on Division Street that occurred at the time his uncle was mayor.
Alvarez insisted there was no need for a special prosecutor, arguing that her office had the legal authority to investigate the case — even though the state’s attorney’s office had twice concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Vanecko.
Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin disagreed, appointing former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb as special prosecutor. That led to Vanecko’s indictment in December 2012 and his guilty plea in January 2014.
Koschman’s mother filed her civil rights lawsuit against the city and the county after Vanecko’s guilty plea. But U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer dismissed the case last year, saying she’d waited too long to sue.
Nanci Koschman appealed, leading to settlement talks with the city and county. Attorneys for Koschman and Alvarez had been set to argue the case before the federal appeals court in Chicago on Oct. 1.
The state’s attorney’s office isn’t admitting any wrongdoing under the proposed deal, which will go before the Cook County Board’s finance committee next month. That committee is headed by another Vanecko uncle, Cook County Commissioner John Daley.
Koschman’s deal with Alvarez drops her legal claims against the county, Alvarez’s office, Alvarez herself, her chief of staff Dan Kirk, her predecessor Richard Devine and former Assistant State’s Attorney Darren W. O’Brien, who refused to approve charges against Vanecko in 2004.
“The state’s attorney’s office had prevailed in this matter in U.S. District Court, and we believed that we would prevail had the case continued to its conclusion in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Alvarez spokesman Sally Daly said. “However, counsel for the plaintiff had indicated that they intended to further pursue the matter in state court should they lose in the court of appeals.
“If the state’s attorney’s office was put in the position of having to continue to defend this case in state court, the costs associated with this litigation would greatly exceed the amount of this allotted settlement. Therefore, the settlement presented the most efficient and cost-effective solution to bring this matter to a conclusion.”
O’Brien refused to agree to the settlement, according to his attorney, Craig Tobin. O’Brien believes he’s been maligned by the portrayal of his involvement in the case and wanted to clear his reputation in court, Tobin said.
Nevertheless, Koschman agreed to drop her entire case, including her claims against O’Brien.
Meanwhile, city of Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson continues to investigate whether police officers should be disciplined for botching the Koschman case, including fabricating witness statements in police reports. That was among the police and prosecutorial failures Webb cited in a 162-page report he issued on the Koschman investigations.