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Chicago Mayor Emanuel apologizes for past police torture

Chicago Mayor addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Eri
Chicago Mayor addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Eri

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an apology on Wednesday after the City Council approved $12.3 million in settlements to two men who said they were tortured by a former police commander employed during previous city administrations.

The settlements award $6.15 million each to Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, who both spent 21 years in prison for the 1988 murders of two women and three young children. They were released and exonerated in 2009.

The settlements bring the total tab for torture cases involving former commander Jon Burge, who has claimed the allegations were fabricated, to about $85 million, according to the city's law department.

"This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago," Emanuel told reporters of the period under former mayors, calling it "a stain on the city's reputation."

"I am sorry this happened," said Emanuel, who heads the nation's third-largest city. "Now let us now all move on."

Emanuel's comments marked the first public apology by a mayor for the alleged torture incidents, according to G. Flint Taylor, the attorney for Kitchen.

Lawyers for the defendants say 120 men were tortured by Burge and other detectives during a period between 1973 and 1991. It was not immediately clear how many of those resulted in lawsuits and how many might still be unresolved.

Burge, who is white, and the other detectives were accused by victims of forcing confessions from African-American criminal suspects with electric shocks, having their heads covered with plastic typewriter covers, and mock executions.

Burge was dismissed from the police department in 1993, and no criminal charges were brought. However, he was convicted in 2010 of lying under questioning during civil suits brought by victims, and he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison in 2011.

Burge had argued at the time that the suspects concocted the torture allegations while in jail together to help their cases and to win compensation awards from the city.

In his lawsuit, Kitchen said that police officers beat him with fists, a nightstick and a telephone, according to his attorney.

The United Nations condemned the instances of alleged police torture in Chicago, and men who say they were tortured to make confessions were among those freed from prison after being sentenced to death in Illinois in recent years. The false convictions helped lead to Illinois banning the death penalty in 2011.

The settlement in the Kitchen case allowed former Mayor Richard M. Daley to avoid having to answer questions about the case under oath. A spokeswoman for Daley, who had been Cook County state's attorney at the time of Kitchen's prosecution, declined to comment on Wednesday.

"No amount of money can give me and my family back what was so viciously stolen from me by Burge, Daley and all of those who worked with them," said Kitchen, in a statement.

Taylor said he was "gratified" by Emanuel's apology, but he wants the city to also establish a $20 million fund to compensate and provide health care and job training to torture victims. He said the amount is equal to the amount the city spent to defend Burge and others.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Renita D. Young; Editing by Greg McCune and Ken Wills)

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