CHICAGO -- In 1982 a Cook County public defender checking out a client's story of police abuse walked into Citizens Alert's downtown Chicago offices looking for its files on cattle prods, according to Mary D. Powers, who still works for the watchdog organization.
The lawyer, who had been told by accused cop killer Anthony Wilson that detectives at Chicago's Calumet Area detective division, led by Cmdr. Jon Burge, had used electrical shock to torture him into a confession, was checking for similar cases.
While Citizens Alert had no files on cattle prods, the question only hinted at a larger story looming.
Over the next three decades, Burge faced growing allegations of widespread torture and abuse from dozens of criminal suspects. Now his day of reckoning nears as a two-day sentencing begins Thursday for Burge, who was convicted in June by a federal jury of lying under oath about the abuse.
During the trial, former convicts testified that Burge smothered one with a bag, played Russian roulette with another and hit a third in the genitals.
For many who have been demanding all along that Burge be held accountable, the sentencing is long-awaited justice but incomplete because others alleged to have suffered at Burge's hands remain in prison.
On the eve of his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, letters were submitted to the court on behalf of Burge, 63, evidence that he hasn't been forgotten by friends and former colleagues. They came from former ranking police officers, attorneys, neighbors, a bartender from a pub he used to frequent and jurors who convicted him.
Many noted his military service and intense dedication to taking on the toughest crimes. A childhood friend recalled his "Beaver Cleaver" smiling personality and willingness to help others. Some, including William Kunkle Jr., the attorney who prosecuted Wilson for the slaying of two Chicago police officers, argued once again that Wilson's torture claims were untrue.
Others talked of the toll his conviction and prostate cancer has taken on him.
In 2006, an investigation by a special Cook County prosecutor concluded that Burge and his officers obtained dozens of confessions through torture but concluded the statute of limitations prohibited any charges. But in 2008, the U.S. Attorney's office brought perjury and obstruction charges against Burge for denying the abuse in a 2003 civil lawsuit.
The federal probation office has recommended Burge be sentenced to 15 to 21 months in prison, but prosecutors have objected, arguing he deserves as many as 30 years for tainting law-abiding officers, compromising community trust in law enforcement and costing the city close to $30 million in lawsuits.
In a ruling Wednesday, Lefkow struck down part of the government's argument, making it unlikely he'll be sentenced to that many years in prison. Burge's attorneys said Wednesday they were still uncertain about what the judge might do.
Whatever the sentence, some who have long followed the case still feel more needs to be done -- detectives under Burge's command have never been criminally prosecuted.
"It's significant, but it's neither full nor complete justice," said Flint Taylor, an attorney who has represented Wilson and others.
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