Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson


Published March 30, 2011


Staff Reporters

The Chicago Police Department’s handling of a 2004 homicide case involving Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko – a nephew of Mayor Daley and White House Chief of Staff William Daley – has come under scrutiny by a second outside law enforcement agency.

City of Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office began seeking documents about the case from the police at least two weeks before the Illinois State Police agreed Friday to do its own review at the request of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Both the inspector general and the State Police are examining the Chicago Police Department’s investigation of the death of David Koschman. Koschman, 21, of Mount Prospect, died from brain injuries he suffered after Vanecko, then 29, punched him in the face and knocked him to the street during a drunken confrontation outside a Division Street bar.

It’s not clear whether the two agencies will work together, nor whether Alvarez was aware the inspector general already was involved.

Ferguson released a written statement Tuesday saying he “cannot provide comment” on whether his office is investigating. The State Police did not respond to a request for comment. Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly referred questions “to the appropriate city agencies.”

The flurry of law enforcement attention follows a Sun-Times investigation that raised questions about the Chicago Police Department’s handling of the case.

Koschman’s friends – as well as a bystander – have disputed police reports from the original 2004 investigation in which detectives said they told them the 5-foot-5, 140-pound Koschman was being physically aggressive toward a group that included Vanecko when he was punched in the early-morning hours of April 25, 2004. Koschman died 11 days later.

The police determined that the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Vanecko threw the punch and that he and one of his friends then ran away. But taking a new look at the case early this year, they decided Vanecko had acted in self-defense and formally closed their now-seven-year-old homicide investigation.

Vanecko has declined to talk to police, who say witnesses couldn’t pick him out of a lineup held 25 days after Koschman was punched.

In Sun-Times interviews, Kochman’s friends denied they told the police Koschman was being physically aggressive. And all told detectives earlier this year they would take lie-detector tests if asked.

Responding to the Sun-Times’ reports, Alvarez called Thursday on the State Police to examine the handling of the Koschman investigation, saying an outside, “independent” police agency needed to step in.

The next day, the State Police agreed to do that, even as Gov. Quinn announced he was appointing Alvarez’s chief investigator, Hiram Grau, to head the State Police. At the time of Koschman’s death, Grau was a deputy police superintendent with the Chicago Police Department, overseeing the department’s detectives. According to the State Police, Grau had no role in investigating the Koschman case but, “out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Grau will be recusing himself from the State Police’s review of the matter.”

As the city’s inspector general, Ferguson, a former federal prosecutor, has worked with federal authorities in investigating corruption at City Hall. One joint probe, “Operation Crooked Code,” has led to convictions of 21 people in a city Building Department bribery scheme.

The Chicago Police Department has declined to discuss the case. In response to a public records request earlier this month seeking “any and all correspondence” it’s had with Ferguson’s office, Alvarez’s office and the FBI regarding Koschman’s death, the Police Department said it had no correspondence with the state’s attorney or the FBI and that it could not release any correspondence with Ferguson’s office.