Top torture cop sentenced, justice still elusiveBy Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Feb 2, 2011 - 12:29:48 PM
Many victims have publicly shared harrowing stories of torture at the hands of Mr. Burge and his henchmen. Many experience recurring nightmares and live in constant fear of retaliation from members of the Chicago Police Department. Tragically, while spending time behind bars wrongfully imprisoned, many of the men lost family members and believe despite the sentencing, justice has eluded them.
Mr. Cannon remembers vividly the night of November 2, 1983, when he was taken by police to a remote location and a shotgun was forced into his mouth, splitting his lip. He said the offi cers beat him, simulated his execution, tried to hang him and later used an electric cattle prod to shock his genitals.
Ultimately, Mr. Cannon confessed to a crime he said he did not commit. During his 23 plus years of imprisonment—including nine years in Tamms Supermax prison with no external contact— Mr. Cannon’s mother, grandmother and several other family members died. Though he was freed April 30, 2007, Mr. Cannon still harbors intense hatred and animosity for the offi cers who brutalized him, and Mr. Burge.
Former Cmdr. Burge led a rogue group of Chicago Police offi cers called “The Midnight Crew” that according to sworn testimonies and numerous reports, used cattle prods to electric shock the genitals of suspects, handcuffed suspects to hot radiators and beat suspects to coerce confessions and to obtain information during investigations.
More than 20 Black men remain in prison, saying they are innocent and claiming they only confessed to crimes after being tortured. Mr. Burge has never apologized to the victims; he only said he was sorry for bringing dishonor to the Chicago Police department.
Victims and activists packed the courtroom during the twoday sentencing phase hoping Mr. Burge would receive the maximum sentencing after being found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice in June 2010.
Despite the fact that dozens of Black men have been freed after serving prison time resulting from forced torture confessions and false police reports, and despite the fact that the City of Chicago has paid millions in case settlements, Mr. Burge’s lawyers continued to ask for leniency based on his military service and because of his poor health.
Mr. Burge suffers from prostate cancer and a host of other respiratory maladies. In fact, the trial was delayed several times back in 2009 resulting from his numerous health problems. The U.S. Probation Department and his lawyers sought an incredibly light sentence of between 15 and 21 months.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald admitted “Justice was delayed in the case,” however, he maintained, “justice delayed is not justice completely denied.”
Recently, members of the Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) delivered over a thousand petition signatures to Judge Lefkow, objecting to the U.S. Probation Department’s sentencing recommendation.
Protesters wearing orange jumpsuits similar to the ones worn by prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay circled the Dirksen Federal Building here chanting while holding signs which read, “Torture Denies Humanity” and “Torture = Terrorism.”
Also on hand was Victor Safforld, released just four months ago after spending over two decades in prison resulting from a forced false confession he said he signed following brutal torture. Mr. Safforld was forced to watch his daughter Victoria—just a baby at the time he was incarcerated— grow up while he was behind bars.
Mark Clements, an outspoken critic of the Chicago Police Department, who claims that at the age of 16, torture forced him to confess to a crime he did not commit resulting in decades of jail time, described Mr. Burge’s sentencing as a “complete injustice” and a “slap on the wrist.”
Mr. Cannon agreed. “Whatever the sentence, it still won’t total to the fraction of the time that the brothers did who were released and those that are still locked up,” said Mr. Cannon. “If Allah allows him to live through his prison sentence, he will still come home before some of his torture victims,” he said.
After 20 years in jail, Burge accuser walks free (FCN, 09-28-2010)