54-month sentence in police torture case

Jan. 21, 2011 at 8:03 PM
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CHICAGO, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- A former high-ranking Chicago Police Department official was sentenced Friday to 54 months in prison for lying in a deposition about torturing suspects.

Jon Burge, 63, of Apollo Beach, Fla., also was sentenced to three years of supervised release for lying during a deposition in a 2003 civil case, when he denied using or being aware that other officers used "improper coercion, physical abuse or torture" against suspects, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release.

Burge, who rose to the rank of commander before he was fired in 1993 as a result of the allegations of abuse, was convicted in June 2010 of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury.

As a judge considered the sentence, a witness recounted torture at Burge's hands in 1973. Anthony Holmes testified before U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow Thursday, describing how other detectives looked on as Burge, a lieutenant at the time, electric-shocked and choked him, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Holmes eventually confessed to a killing he did not commit and went to prison for a decade, losing contact with his family.

"I just slipped through the cracks," he said.

Lefkow ruled Thursday Burge could get 21 to 27 months in prison, but prosecutors demanded a stiffer penalty.

Howard Saffold, a former officer who investigated police abuse for the Afro-American Patrolmen's League, testified: "This case puts the entire justice system on trial. When it's done with malice and forethought, it challenges the entire system."

Evidence presented during his trial indicated Burge suffocated suspects with plastic bags, shocked them with electrical devices and held a loaded gun to their heads.

"Burge abused his power and betrayed the public trust by abusing suspects in his custody, and then by lying under oath to cover up what he and other officers had done," Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez said in a statement Friday.

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