STATE POLICE TO REVIEW KOSCHMAN HOMICIDE
Published March 26, 2011
By TIM NOVAK AND FRANK MAIN
The Illinois State Police agreed Friday to review the Chicago Police Department’s investigation of the 2004 homicide of David Koschman, who died of brain injuries from a fall after he was punched in the face by Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, a nephew of Mayor Daley and of White House Chief of Staff William Daley.
A request for the state investigation had come Thursday from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. She said she wanted an outside, “independent” police agency to probe Koschman’s case since witnesses say detectives wrongly portrayed the 5-foot-5, 140-pound Koschman as the aggressor in a confrontation after a night of bar-hopping on Rush Street.
Alvarez said her office shouldn’t be the agency to examine the police investigation because her staff has been involved in the case from the start, determining in 2004 that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant filing charges against the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Vanecko.
Alvarez’s deputy chief of investigations, Hiram Grau, was appointed by Gov. Quinn on Friday as the new director of the Illinois State Police. When Koschman died in 2004, Grau was deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department’s bureau of investigative services, which oversees all detectives. Grau left the department in 2008.
Grau couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
The State Police issued this statement: “Hiram Grau’s first day with the Illinois State Police is April 11, and he is not available for an interview until after that time.
“While he was not personally involved in CPD’s investigation of the 2004 incident, out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Grau will be recusing himself from the State Police’s review of the matter.
“The primary purpose of the state’s attorney’s office’s request and of our review will be investigating the 2004 incident. Part of that review will be evaluating the evidence and what further investigatory steps by ISP are required.”
Interim Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard said Friday his staff will cooperate with the state investigation.
“The Chicago Police Department closed this case, and we have nothing further to add at this time but will cooperate with whatever process is identified by the state’s attorney’s office and her staff,” Hillard said.
Asked whether the State Police review of the Koschman investigation could be impartial with Grau now in charge, Hillard said only: “He’s a friend of mine. You’ll have to ask the State Police and the state’s attorney’s office about that one.”
Koschman died May 6, 2004 – 11 days after he was punched in the face and knocked to the street.
Koschman, a 21-year-old from Mount Prospect, and a group of his friends had been arguing with Vanecko and a group of his friends. The argument ended when Vanecko threw the only punch, and then ran away, according to the police, who decided that Vanecko acted in self-defense.
They dropped their initial investigation soon after Koschman’s death and then formally closed the case March 1, after a new review of the evidence. They say they didn’t file charges for two reasons:
Witnesses – including four Koschman friends – didn’t identify Vanecko in police lineups held 25 days after the confrontation.
The police say Koschman’s friends and other witnesses told detectives Koschman was being physically aggressive when he got punched – an assertion Koschman’s friends dispute.