Richard Vanecko, the nephew of former Mayor
The case was randomly assigned today to Judge Arthur Hill, a former prosecutor when Daley was state's attorney.
When Vanecko appeared before the judge this morning, Hill noted he had also been appointed to the board of the Chicago Transit Authority by Daley when he was mayor. He also held the No. 2 post under State's Attorney Dick Devine, who has strong ties to Daley.
Hill told lawyers in the case that he won't voluntarily remove himself from presiding over the case but would understood if special prosecutor Dan Webb, who charged Vanecko, asked for another judge.
"This court believes I can be fair and impartial in this case," Hill said.
The case will be back in court next Monday to give to give time to Webb's team to weigh whether they will seek another judge other than Hill.
As Vanecko walked out of the courthouse flanked by his attorneys, they made no comment.
Earlier, Vanecko strode into the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th Street and California just after 9 a.m. dressed in a gray suit and tie and charcoal overcoat accompanied by three of his attorneys.
A crowd of TV cameramen, photographers and reporters followed him inside, shouting questions that Vanecko did not answer.
Vanecko went through the security line and into presiding Judge Paul Biebel's first-floor courtroom.
Both sides have the option to ask for a different judge if there are conflicts of interest, something that could arise since Vanecko is such a high-profile defendant and there have been allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct surrounding the case.
Vanecko, who currently resides in Costa Mesa, Calif., turned himself in to authorities in Chicago on Friday afternoon and later posed for a mug shot in a jacket and tie.
Last week, a special grand jury found that Vanecko, who is the son of former Mayor Richard M. Daley's sister, Mary, "recklessly performed acts which were likely to cause great bodily harm to another."
Koschman, 21, of Mount Prospect, had been drinking in the Rush Street nightlife district early on April 24, 2004, when he and his friends quarreled with a group that included Vanecko. During the altercation, Koschman was knocked to the street, hitting the back of his head on the pavement. He died 11 days later.
Police at the time said Koschman was the aggressor and closed the case without charges. In announcing the indictment, Webb, a former U.S. attorney, noted that at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Vanecko towered over Koschman, who was 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds.
Webb also said the grand jury is still probing how the original investigation was conducted.
Vanecko's attorneys issued a statement last week saying they were disappointed by the indictment and noted that at the time of the confrontation, Koschman's blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit for a motorist.
Koschman "was clearly acting in an unprovoked, physically aggressive manner," Vanecko's legal team said. "We are confident that when all the facts are aired in a court of law, the trier of fact will find Mr. Vanecko not guilty."
If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Vanecko faces from probation up to 5 years in prison.