Labor & Employment

Ex-cop accused of torturing defendants will keep $4,000 monthly pension, state supreme court rules

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The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a decision to give a disgraced ex-Chicago police officer his $4,000 monthly pension, Courthouse News reports.

Former detective commander Jon Burge avoided being charged in the torture of more than 100 suspects because of the statute of limitations. But in 2011 he was sentenced to 4½ years in federal prison for perjury in the matter.

The city has paid out more than $100 million to settle claims stemming from brutality that included suffocation with plastic bags, electricity applied to genitals and guns forced into mouths during interrogations, according to Courthouse News. As many as 120 men, mostly African-American, were victims of Burge’s torture tactics.

In 2011, the Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago voted on a motion to terminate Burge’s pension, with the four police officer members against doing so and the four city-appointed board members for it. The split-vote left the pension intact.

The Illinois attorney general then asked the courts to stop the payments. The state supreme court has ruled 4-3 (PDF) that the board’s decision is final.

Otherwise, the court said in the majority opinion written by Justice Anne Burke, the court would have to decide whether Burge’s felony convictions are “related to, arose out of, or were in connection with his services as a police officer—the same issue addressed by the board.”

In dissent joined by one justice, Chief Justice Rita Garman wrote that the majority decision is broader than simply who gets to decide whether to void the pension, but rather says the board’s decisions “are immune to challenge by the attorney general.”

In another dissent, Justice Charles Freeman said the legislature has granted circuit courts concurrent jurisdiction to hear complaints that terms of the pension code have been violated.

Burge was released from prison earlier this month and will complete his sentence in a Florida halfway house.

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