Cop tied to torture goes to jail, but allegations continue

Disgraced former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge reported to the Butner Federal Correctional Complex near Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, March 16. In January, Burge, 63, was sentenced to four and a half-years behind bars after a federal jury convicted him of obstruction of justice and perjury for denying in a civil lawsuit that he knew of alleged torture under his watch.

Although Burge, who was fired from the police department in 1993, was never convicted of torturing suspects, attorneys are seeking justice for those who claim they were tortured to make confessions under his watch.

Earlier this week, a federal judge ordered Burge to submit to a deposition within the next seven days and take questions from lawyers representing Michael Tillman.

Tillman spent nearly 24 years in maximum security prisons and says detectives under Burge’s command tortured him into falsely confessing to a 1986 murder, rape and kidnapping. At the time Tillman was 20. He said he was beaten with a phone book, punched in the face and stomach until he vomited blood, had a plastic bag put over his head and soda poured into his nose. 

Tillman was released last year after a the state’s attorney declined to retry him, citing “unreliable” and “forced confessions.”

Tillman is suing the police department for wrongful conviction. His lawyer Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office notes Burge’s deposition will include questions regarding Ronald Kitchen, who also says he was wrongfully convicted under Burge.

Taylor says he plans to visit Burge in North Carolina and question him in a witness room. The lawyer recently wrote an in depth article as part of the Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report on the sentencing of Burge.

In 2004, Burge submitted to a video deposition also regarding civil cases. He invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer any questions. He is expected to do the same in the current deposition.

The torture scandal has cost the city nearly $30 million, and there are still six suits pending as Burge enters prison.

In February Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit accusing the city police pension board of illegally letting Burge continue to collect $3,039 monthly in spite of his criminal conviction.

Burge and detectives under his command are believed to be responsible for the torture of dozens if not hundreds of African American male suspects during the 1970s and 80s. Several victims have testified against Burge, saying that he and his men forced confessions from them using electric homemade devices, suffocation with plastic typewriter covers, beatings and mock executions.

Photo: Pepe Lozano/PW


Pepe Lozano
Pepe Lozano

Chicagoan Pepe Lozano was a staff writer with the People's World through 2014. He comes from an activist family and has lived on the city's southwest side in a predominantly Mexican-American community his whole life. Lozano now works as a union organizer.