The [Friday] Papers
"A federal judge blasted the Chicago Police Department and Cook County state's attorney's office on Thursday for mishandling the investigation of David Koschman's death but dismissed the lawsuit his mother filed alleging an 'official cover-up' had long kept former Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew Richard J. 'R.J.' Vanecko from being charged," the Sun-Times reports.
"U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said she had to dismiss Nanci Koschman's lawsuit because the statute of limitations had run out."
Isn't the lesson, then, that if you can cover up wrongdoing long enough, you're in the clear?
Here's Pallmeyer from her ruling:
"[T]his court concludes that Mrs. Koschman's federal claim accrued when she knew about the alleged coverup. Defendants argue that this happened back in 2004 when Detective Ronald Yawger effectively told Mrs. Koschman that she was up against forces that she could not defeat. So their argument is she knew about that corruption from that time on"
So the defense argued, successfully, that indeed a coverup occurred but that Nanci Koschman should have deduced that from a Chicago police detective's cryptic comment 10 years ago and filed a suit back then - even though a conspiracy of silence exists to this day.
I'm not so sure about that - especially given that they just admitted they did it.
"They point as well to rumblings in the press about Mr. Vanecko's relationship to former Mayor Daley and the possibility that that relationship had influenced the police and the prosecutors, and they point out that she had access all along to Mr. Koschman's friends, who observed the fatal blow."
So now the defendants argue that Koschman should have known there was a conspiracy well before the statute of limitations ran out because of the Sun-Times's reporting - which the defendants have ripped all along as baseless and agenda-driven.
"Whatever Mrs. Koschman knew as of 2004, it's impossible for me to escape the conclusion that she knew everything she needed to know about the cover-up no later than December 2011. At that time she petitioned the circuit court for appointment of a special prosecutor. And I looked at the petition yesterday in detail once again and again this morning, and she laid out in that petition essentially all of the same facts she alleges here."
Maybe she petitioned for a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of what happened. Her mistake, Pallmeyer is saying, is in being too fair in waiting for the facts to bear out rather than becoming litigious sooner.
"Special Prosecutor Dan Webb swiftly indicted Mr. Vanecko, and he has now pleaded guilty.Mr. Webb's activities and the additional press attention that they generated have underscored Mrs. Koschman's allegations of police and arguably State's Attorney wrongdoing, but it simply can't be that Mrs. Koschman could not have filed her wrongful death case against Mr. Vanecko until he was convicted. Wrongful death actions are filed regularly with or without corresponding criminal charges. Indeed, had Mr. Vanecko been acquitted, that would not defeat Mrs. Koschman's action. Had Mr. Vanecko been acquitted, she still could have sued him, and the acquittal might not even have been admissible in a civil action in state court."
I suppose that's true, but I find Nanci Koschman's restraint admirable. It's probably not how I would have behaved, but Nanci Koschman is now being punished for her class and good graces. I'm not saying the law should make an exception because of that, but that her frame of mind - and what she truly was able to know - should be a factor in a ruling like this.
Nanci Koschman is free to appeal, of course. And Pallmeyer suggested she might have better luck in the state courts - you know, the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ahem.
The cover-up worked. Bravo.
"Koschman's attorneys argued that the statute of limitations should be waived because the conspiracy had denied Koschman her opportunity to sue," the Tribune reported. "Until Vanecko's guilty plea was entered, Koschman had no one to accuse because authorities had hidden evidence that Vanecko was the aggressor in the fight, her attorneys said."
Yes, but . . .
"The lawsuit . . . relied heavily on the findings of special prosecutor Dan Webb, [and] alleged that Daley and certain family members, friends and associates gave false, misleading and incomplete statements' as part of Webb's investigation into Koschman's death."
Lesson: Don't ever give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Sue immediately upon suspicion. Of course, you risk losing if enough evidence hasn't turned up, but too bad.
"It's true that she might not have been a wise - it might not have been effective to go ahead with a wrongful death case at that point."
But she should have filed the case then, Pallmeyer is saying, even if it would have been a loser. Either way, Nanci Koschman can't win.
"More than 25 defendants were named in the suit besides Vanecko, including former police superintendents Phil Cline and Jody Weis, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and former State's Attorney Dick Devine.
"The suit also alleged that during separate investigations seven years apart, police fabricated evidence and altered official files, all in a bid to falsely make it appear that Koschman, 10 inches shorter and more than 100 pounds lighter than Vanecko, was the aggressor in the altercation.
"Nanci Koschman told reporters in March she decided to file the lawsuit after learning from Webb's voluminous report how her son's death was treated."
According to Pallmeyer, she should have sued first. Not everyone thinks like that; to the cynics go the spoils.
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Posted on August 29, 2014
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