A Cook County judge today appointed a special prosecutor to look into how Chicago police investigated the 2004 death of David Koschman after a drunken confrontation with a nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley.
Attorneys for Koschman's family had sought the special prosecutor, arguing that Chicago police deliberately falsified reports to make it appear Koschman was the aggressor.
But the Cook County state's attorney's office opposed the appointment, accusing Koschman's attorneys of "Monday morning quarterbacking" and jumping to conclusions about evidence.
Koschman, 21, had been drinking in the Rush Street nightlife district early on April 25, 2004, when he argued with a group that included Daley's nephew, Richard "R.J." Vanecko.
During the altercation, Koschman was punched or shoved, causing him to fall back and hit his head on the street. He died 11 days later. No charges were ever filed.
In his ruling Judge Michael Toomin said statements from police and prosecutors that Vanecko acted in self-defense weren't reliable because authorities never interviewed him.
"The conclusion that must be drawn (is that) this was a defense conjured up by police and prosecutors, made of whole cloth," Toomin said.
Toomin also questioned the initial investigation's pace and conclusions.
"Quite simply, we had a dead body," he said. "This is not a whodunit. We know who did it. We have a known offender and yet no charges."
He also said the investigation was plagued by what he called "missing-files syndrome, an affliction common to both the police department as well as the state's attorney's office."
Koschman's mother, Nanci, said after the ruling that she barely slept last night because she was so nervous.
"It's been a long 14 months, and I'm just very happy that the judge listened to everything we had to say," she said, her lips quivering as she tried to hold back tears while addressing a crowd of reporters. "And I hope I finally get some justice for David. I'll go see him this afternoon at the cemetery and tell him that we won one step. Now we'll go for the next one."
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said she respects the judge's ruling and does not intend to appeal it.
But she firmly defended her handling of the case and said she had no conflict of interest that should have prevented her from prosecuting it.
"My oath of office does not permit me to run away from issues because they are difficult or unpopular, or because I will come under false and unfair political scrutiny," she said, speaking a few minutes after the ruling was announced. "I will not be bullied into any decision on any case that is not supported by the law and admissible evidence."