Court orders Daley to talk
Federal judge's ruling clears way for deposition in cop torture case
Michael Higgins and Jeff Coen, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Rudolph Bush contributed to this report
Published February 23, 2007
In a rare ruling, a federal judge on Thursday ordered Mayor Richard Daley to answer questions under oath about whether he or others permitted Chicago police to physically abuse suspects in the 1980s.Lawyers for pardoned Death Row inmate Madison Hobley had fought for two years to take the deposition of Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney at the time of Hobley's arrest in 1987.
City attorneys have argued that Daley has no information about police misconduct under former Cmdr. Jon Burge that Hobley's lawyers couldn't get from other sources.But on Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown disagreed.The facts in Hobley's case "support a conclusion that Mr. Daley may have information about the activities of Burge and other police officers, about who in the city and police administration knew about those activities, and about whether any action was taken on the basis of such knowledge," Brown wrote.Brown instructed the two sides to talk about a possible time and place for Daley's deposition and to be prepared to discuss the issue at a Wednesday court date.City officials said Thursday they may appeal Brown's ruling to U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen, who is assigned to the case but has referred preliminary matters to Brown."There is a high standard for deposing public officials," Law Department spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle said. "Our position has been that the mayor has no unique or new information" about the case.Brown's ruling came on the same day that U.S. District Chief Judge James Holderman gave the city until March 22 to respond in writing to claims it has reneged on a settlement with Hobley and two other men who have claimed police torture. Attorneys for Hobley, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard contend they agreed to a $14.8 million settlement late last year, which the city seemingly has abandoned. Daley said this week there was no agreement, and after court Thursday, city Corporation Counsel Mara Georges stood by that position. Hobley told reporters outside court Thursday that he is disappointed about the settlement dispute. "Sadly, it doesn't seem like I can get on with the rest of my free life," said Hobley. Brown's ruling, however, was cheered by lawyers for the three former inmates."It's about time he had to sit and face some serious interrogation about his role as state's attorney and later as mayor in the long-standing torture scandal," said Flint Taylor, an attorney for Orange.Brown's ruling opened the door for Daley to be questioned about a 1982 letter from then-police Supt. Richard Brzeczek regarding signs that police had abused murder suspect Andrew Wilson. The Illinois Supreme Court later reversed Wilson's conviction."There is evidence that in February 1982, the state's attorney's office, and perhaps Mr. Daley personally, was put on notice of allegations of physical abuse of suspects" through the letter, Brown wrote in a six-page opinion. Plaintiffs suing the city have asked to depose Daley in dozens of lawsuits since he became mayor, but Hoyle said she knew of only one or two cases in which he has sat for a deposition.In the ruling Thursday, Brown said plaintiffs may not use depositions to harass high-ranking government officials, or merely for "publicity value."But she said public officials aren't immune from depositions. Brown cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1997 that forced President Bill Clinton to sit for a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Kurt Feuer, an attorney for Hobley, said Brown's opinion confirmed his view that a Cook County special prosecutor had not adequately questioned Daley during an earlier deposition.The special prosecutors' report, released last year, concluded that Burge had engaged in decades of torture, but that he could not be prosecuted criminally because the statute of limitations had run out.The special prosecutor's deposition of the mayor "contains little useful information," Brown wrote.