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Report: No evidence of Daley influence in probe

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 12:32 p.m. CST
Caption
(M. Spencer Green)
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2012 file photo, Richard Vanecko, right, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, arrives at court in Chicago for his arraignment on involuntary manslaughter charges. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, special prosecutor Dan Webb released a report concluding there is no evidence the former mayor or other family members sought to influence an investigation into the 2004 death of a man punched by Vanecko. Vanecko pleaded guilty Friday, Jan 31. to involuntary manslaughter, leading a judge to unseal the report. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

CHICAGO – A special prosecutor released a report Tuesday that concluded there is no evidence that then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley or members of his family sought to influence an investigation into the 2004 death of a man punched by Daley's nephew.

But the 162-page document on the death of David Koschman does suggest authorities badly handled the investigation at key stages, including by continually asserting that Daley's nephew had acted in self-defense when that was contradicted by much of the witness testimony.

However, "there was no evidence that former Mayor Daley, his family, or others at their direction engaged in conduct to influence or attempted to influence" the investigations, according to a statement released with the report by the special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb.

Daley, the city's longest-serving mayor, left office in 2011.

Koschman, who was 21, died days after being struck on a street by Daley's nephew, Richard J. Vanecko, who had been out drinking at nearby bars. The blow knocked down Koschman and he struck his head.

Fueled by stories in the Chicago Sun-Times, questions were raised about whether clout caused Cook County prosecutors and Chicago police to mishandle the original investigation. Koschman's family claimed there was a cover-up.

The report's release came after Vanecko, now 39 and living in Costa Mesa, Calif., pleaded guilty Friday to involuntary manslaughter in a plea deal. He'll serve 60 days in jail, followed by 60 days of home confinement, and must pay $20,000 in restitution.

His plea agreement short-circuited the need for a trial, which had been scheduled to begin later this month, and it led a judge on Monday to order that Webb's final 2013 report be unsealed.

Webb wrote that when re-examining the case's handling, he primarily looked at whether one of four laws had been broken: official misconduct, obstructing justice, conspiracy, and tampering with public records. Because each has a three-year statute of limitations, none could have been applied to the handling of the original 2004 investigation, he wrote, also citing a lack of potentially vital evidence, including emails and cellphone records.

And while reopened investigations in 2011 and 2012 were not subject to the statute of limitations, the report concluded that charges couldn't be filed against any of the investigators.

"The Special Prosecutor does not believe he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt by legally sufficient evidence at trial that any employee of (the Chicago police) or (prosecutor's office) acted with the requisite criminal intent ... to violate Illinois law," it said.

Vanecko's plea on Friday came as a surprise.

Judge Maureen McIntye accepted the plea and ordered Vanecko to apologize to Koschman's mother, Nanci Koschman.

Vanecko said in court about her, "I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Mrs. Koschman has gone through."

Nanci Koschman told the judge she felt at least some sense of justice, saying, "I have a little peace of mind. I know I got a little justice for David."

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