CHICAGO — A federal judge said Wednesday that she won't step aside before sentencing a former Chicago police lieutenant convicted of lying about the torture of suspects, rejecting arguments that she appeared to have a conflict of interest.
Attorneys for Jon Burge said they were concerned that the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weisman, also was a prosecutor in a 2004 case in which a white supremacist was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow. They said they did not know about the connection before trial and that it was discovered by a friend of Burge's after his conviction.
But Lefkow said prosecutors in the case involving the supremacist, Matthew Hale, represented the government, not her, and that she had no say in his prosecution. She testified briefly as a witness at his trial, but was not questioned by Weisman. She also said that Burge's attorneys filed their motion too late.
"Obviously this is very distressing to think the recusal issue came up a few weeks before sentencing," Lefko said.
Burge, convicted in June of perjury and obstruction of justice, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 20. He faces a maximum of 45 years in prison.
For decades, dozens of suspects — almost all of them black men — claimed Burge and his officers had tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder by suffocating, shocking and beating confessions out of them. Burge was fired from the police department in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of a suspect but he was not was criminally charged before the statute of limitations ran out.
He was charged in 2008 with lying about the alleged torture in a lawsuit filed by a former death row inmate.
Lefkow said she respected Burge's right to bring a recusal motion, but said it could have been brought up before the trial because nobody was hiding the information.
Hale was convicted of trying to hire his security chief, who was working as an FBI informant, to kill Lefkow. Prosecutors said he was angry that the judge had ordered his group to stop using the name World Church of the Creator because the words were trademarked by an Oregon-based religious group.
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The judge never was attacked. But on Feb. 28, 2005, Lefkow's husband and mother were found shot to death in the basement of the Lefkows' home. An unemployed electrician who killed himself several days later during a traffic stop in a Milwaukee suburb confessed to the crime in a suicide note.