Chicago police union cuts ties with attorney who defended Jason Van Dyke
The union will no longer actively refer officers to attorney Daniel Herbert
By Megan Crepeau and Jeremy Gorner
CHICAGO — The union representing rank-and-file Chicago police will no longer refer officers in need of legal assistance to the attorney who represents convicted former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, according to multiple sources.
The executive board of the local Fraternal Order of Police voted Tuesday against recommending the services of Daniel Herbert, the sources said.
Herbert confirmed Wednesday that he had appeared a day earlier before members of the board, who he said expressed displeasure with his handling of Van Dyke’s case. Herbert was aware of the decision but said he had not been formally notified of the specifics as of Wednesday morning.
“I 100 percent stand behind the defense that I put on for Jason Van Dyke,” said Herbert, himself a former Chicago police officer. “I gave my heart and soul to this case, and as long as my appearance is still on file, I’m going to continue to do everything I can to represent my client.”
Union President Kevin Graham could not immediately be reached for comment. The organization, though, has a policy of not commenting to the Tribune.
After a monthlong trial this fall, a Cook County jury convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the 2014 on-duty shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The guilty verdict marked the first time in half a century that a Chicago police officer was convicted of murder in an on-duty incident.
This week’s decision means the union will stop actively referring officers to Herbert. Officers with legal needs could still choose on their own to select him as their attorney, and the FOP would pay for legal expenses depending on the type of case, the sources said.
“There’s no hard feelings,” Herbert said. “If they don’t feel that my services are of value to their members, then we should not be doing business together.”
Herbert noted that many of the union board members were not in attendance at the trial and said their decision was motivated by politics. He declined to elaborate.
“I get along with most of the members on the board very well,” he said. “There was just a couple people that really made things difficult, and I am relieved to be done dealing with them.”
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, called the FOP board’s decision “shameful” and said she had never been less than satisfied with the way Herbert and his legal team handled the case. In fact, the lawyer seems like part of the family now, she said.
“I trust in Dan completely. I think he is a phenomenal attorney,” she said. “My husband, he thinks things through, he researches things, he doesn’t just jump into a decision. … He thought long and hard about making them his attorneys, and I don’t think he regrets it one bit.”
Van Dyke “absolutely 100 percent” wants Herbert to remain his lawyer, she said.
Herbert told the Tribune he now must consider whether continuing to represent Van Dyke would be “prudent” given his now-fractured relationship with the union.
Herbert left the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in 2004 to become an in-house lawyer for the FOP. He set up a private practice of his own in 2010.
Van Dyke’s next court date is slated for mid-December. He was taken into custody immediately after the verdict and is being held in protective custody at a county jail in the Quad Cities area about three hours west of Chicago.
He is no longer a police officer since the Illinois State Police revoked his certification with his conviction. No sentencing date has been set.
Van Dyke fatally shot McDonald on the city’s Southwest Side in 2014 after the teen refused commands to drop a knife. The court-ordered release of police dashboard camera video of the shooting sparked widespread outrage and allegations of a police cover-up because the teen appears to be walking away from officers, not lunging at them with the knife as alleged by Van Dyke and other officers.