Indictment of Daley's nephew questioned

Dec. 4, 2012 at 4:13 PM

CHICAGO, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Legal experts say convicting ex-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's nephew for the 2004 death of a man he fought outside a bar won't be a slam dunk for prosecutors.

Richard J. Vanecko, the longtime mayor's nephew, was involved in a drunken altercation outside a Rush Street bar April 25, 2004. Vanecko, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 230 pounds, punched Koschman, who was 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds. Koschman fell to the ground, striking his head on the sidewalk, and died 11 days later, the Chicago Tribune said.

A special grand jury Monday indicted Vanecko for involuntary manslaughter, a charge generally lodged when someone intends to injure someone but instead kills them. The special grand jury found Vanecko's actions, "likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another."

Legal experts told the Tribune the case could prove difficult to get a conviction. For starters, Koschman was drunk -- his blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit for a motorist. Furthermore, the judge's pretrial rulings on how much information the jury will be allowed to hear about the alleged coverup will be crucial in explaining the widely varying witness accounts police documented in the incident's aftermath that, left unexplained, could easily lead a jury to find reasonable doubt, the newspaper said.

Police initially failed to bring charges against Vanecko, his mother Nanci said. Despite the physical disparity, initial reports painted Koschman as the aggressor.

But in the years since, a special prosecutor -- the first appointed in Cook County in 40 years -- said his investigation found that police falsified witness accounts in an apparent attempt to cover up what happened.

Vanecko's lawyers deny any police coverup and expressed confidence he would be acquitted.

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