Torture Victim Reflects on Burge Sentence

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The 4 ½ -year sentence handed down to former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge recently for federal crimes of lying and obstructing justice did not sit well with a lot of people, including Mark Clements, who is one of those tortured by detectives under Burge’s command.

This protester was among the many encouraging Mayor Daley to take part in jailing former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, and to go after Detectives under his watch accused of torturing murder suspects in their custody in the 1970 and 1980s, during a rally outside City Hall in May 2010. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“It was outrageous,” Clements declared to Residents’ Journal during a phone interview on Jan. 25, a few days after the sentencing. “It was a smack in the face to the African American community concerning what Mr. Burge did.”

Clements, a longtime advocate to jail Burge, was tortured in June 1981, when he was 16 years old.

Burge, 63, was sentenced Jan. 21 to serve 4 ½ years in a federal prison for lying in a federal civil trial about torture committed against more than 100 African American men and women at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters in the 1970s and 1980s. The torture victims were murder suspects in police custody. Burge was fired as police commander in 1993.

Despite his disappointment over the length of Burge’s sentence, Clements said he is now focusing all his attention on getting hearings for those who are still behind bars claiming to have been tortured at the hands of Burge or other law officers. Clements also wants to see those police officers who committed torture are indicted, convicted and sent to prison like Burge.

“There are 23 men that still remain incarcerated. These men are called crime victims, but denied an opportunity on a hearing on their claim of torture,” Clements said.

“What would prevent them from having a hearing? They should be entitled to a hearing on their claims of torture.”

One of the many protesters marching outside City Hall in downtown Chicago, during the "Jail Jon Burge" rally on May 24, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Johns

Based on a confession he gave under torture, Clements was incarcerated for 28 years until he was exonerated of the charges against him and freed from prison in August 2009. Now a member of the Illinois Coalition against Torture and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Clements is also seeking financial compensation for the abuse he suffered.

Clements and a host of others are expecting to hold a rally outside the Cook County Jail and Courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue on March 16. They are also planning to serve letters to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Special State’s Attorney Stuart A. Nudelman as well as US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to encourage them to meet with each other “to grant each of these men with a hearing on their claims for torture,” according to Clements.

“If US District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants to impress someone, he needs to meet with Anita Alvarez to suggest to her that hearings be conducted in these men’s cases,” Clements said.

Burge could have been sentenced to 45 years after being found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice last June. The US Probation Department recommended that Burge be sentenced to just 15-21 months of prison.

In a statement by the Illinois Coalition Against Torture prior to Burge receiving his prison sentence, Larry Redmond, an ICAT member and former criminal defense attorney representing death row inmates, said, “Systematic torture by state actors is not acceptable, but such a minimal punishment would indicate that it is.”

The group added that “Those familiar with the Burge torture cases found these recommendations shocking.

“This sentencing recommendation fails to address the devastating harm Burge wrought on individuals and families in the African-American community in Chicago, as well as the lack of remorse he has shown for the horrendous crimes he committed,” they declared in an emailed statement to RJ.

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