CHICAGO (CN) – Jon Burge, a former Chicago Police commander suspected of torturing black suspects on Chicago’s South Side in the 1980s, was arrested Tuesday in Florida on federal charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.
“There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station. There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said. “No person is above the law, and nobody – even a suspected murderer – is beneath its protection.”
Burge is charged with lying in his written responses to questions posed during the discovery period for the civil suit Hobley v. Jon Burge et al.
Hobley claimed that Burge and other officers tortured him, placing a plastic bag over his head until he lost consciousness.
When asked whether he was aware of the use of torture techniques by Chicago Police, Burge allegedly responded, “I am not aware of any” and stated that he had never used any technique as “a means of improper coercion.”
The Chicago Police Board fired Burge in 1993. He has lived in Florida ever since. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison on each obstruction of justice charge and 5 years for the perjury charge.
The arrest caps a long-running controversy over allegations of police torture under Burge’s command. Burge has been the focus of numerous complaints by civil rights attorneys, who claimed that he and his detectives used beatings, electric shock and threatened to kill suspects.
A Cook County Circuit Court report by two special prosecutors concluded that many black suspects were abused and tortured by Chicago police in the 1970s and 1980s. But the court concluded that the actions were too old to bring indictments.
Chicago recently agreed to pay $20 million to settle lawsuits by Hobley and other inmates who were convicted on evidence gathered by Burge and his detectives, which sent the alleged torture victims to prison for years.
CNS reporter Joe Harris contributed to this report.