Illinois Coalition Against Torture's Objections to Granting Jon Burge a Light Sentence

The recommendation for Jon Burge's sentence by the U.S. Probation Office was only 15 to 21 months. Sign this petition to let Judge Lefkow know that Burge deserves a more severe sentence that is commensurate with the egregious nature of the underlying crimes of torture he committed. 

This past June, after a twenty-five year battle for justice, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was found guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury for lying about the torture he and other Chicago Police detectives committed at Chicago Police Headquarters in the 1970s and 1980s.   Burge is now set to be sentenced on January 20, 2011, and he faces a maximum sentence of 45 years imprisonment. 

Despite the egregious nature of Burge's underlying crimes of systemic torture, the U.S. Probation Office in its Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) has recommended he be sentenced to serve only 15-21 months in prison.  The PSR, in recommending such a minimal sentence, fails to take into account: 1) the devastating harm Burge wrought on individuals and families in the African American community in Chicago; and 2) the lack of responsibility and remorse Burge has expressed for the heinous crimes he committed.  For these reasons, the Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) stands with the U.S. Attorney's Office in objecting to the PSR's sentence recommendation and calls for Burge to receive a much more severe sentence, including a possible maximum sentence, that is commensurate with the harm that he not only has inflicted, but that he has failed to mitigate.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, in its objections to the PSR sentencing recommendation, emphasized the damage Burge has done to the institution of policing, pointing out that "[d]uring defendant's reign, the legitimacy of the criminal justice system was severely compromised, and the social issues of that time became more pronounced because of it."  The U.S. Attorneys also correctly pointed out that "almost $30 million in taxpayer dollars have been consumed because of the defendant's conduct."   These, however, are only two of the meritorious reasons Burge warrants a much more severe sentence.

The fact is that Burge has destroyed the lives of over 110 African American men and women and their families since he began his reign of torture back in 1972.  Burge engaged in systematic acts of torture to extract confessions from African American individuals for 20 years, and these confessions were then used against scores of individuals to wrongfully convict them, and in the case of 12, to send them to Illinois' death row.  Many of the torture survivors served decades in prison before they were exonerated or otherwise released.  Fortunately, none of them were executed, but, to this day, over 20 of these individuals are still incarcerated, and their families are still suffering under the strain of having a family member unfairly imprisoned.  Meanwhile, most of the torture survivors continue to suffer the psychological effects of torture they endured, but they are without resources to obtain any necessary treatment.

Burge, and the detectives who worked under his command, were responsible for electric shocking men's genitals, suffocating people with plastic bags, threatening them with mock executions and brutal physical beatings, while routinely tormenting those tortured with racist epithets and slurs.  These actions constitute crimes that we deem to be some of the most heinous in American society - - attempted murder, armed violence, aggravated battery - - and there is also no question that they constitute acts of torture condemned internationally as human rights violations. 

Many, therefore, believe that the only fitting punishment for Burge is for him to serve the maximum sentence.  Such a sentence seems fair and reasonable given that a civilian convicted of such crimes would receive the severest possible sentence.

ICAT, a proponent of restorative justice, believes Burge's sentence should be considered in light of such principles and recognizes that Burge has failed to:

1.  Accept responsibility for his crimes and apologize to the torture survivors, their family members, the African American community and the Chicago community as a whole for the harm he has inflicted upon us;

2.  Assist the US Attorney's Office in uncovering evidence of torture and perjury committed by the other detectives he worked with and reveal the police chain of command, prosecutorial agents and municipal officers who were co-conspirators in the cover-up of the torture; 

3.  Agree to testify for the Government so that others responsible for the torture can be indicted and convicted for their criminal conduct;

4.  Agree to testify on behalf of the torture survivors in their post-conviction criminal cases so that they can get their wrongful convictions based on their tortured confessions overturned or testify on behalf of the torture survivors who have pending civil rights cases so that they may obtain the financial compensation they so richly deserve; and

5.  Publicly support the campaign for psychological counseling and financial reparations for the torture survivors and their families who, due to the statute of limitations, are unable to sue to receive the compensation they too deserve.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has undertaken the task of correcting a wrong that has long since needed correcting, and his office has recommended that Burge be sentenced to 24 to 30 years.  Sentencing Burge to fewer than two years in prison would without a doubt send the completely wrong message to not only the Chicago community, but to the entire nation and world.  Rather, he must be given a much more severe sentence that is commensurate with the harm he has not only inflicted, but that he has, for decades, also failed to acknowledge and mitigate.

We, the undersigned, support the Illinois Coalition Against Torture's objection to the Presentence Investigation Report's (PSR) recommendation that former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge only serve 15-21 months in prison for his convictions for obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from his lies denying acts of torture he and other Chicago Police detectives committed at Chicago Police Headquarters. The PSR, in recommending such a minimal sentence, fails to take into account: 1) the devastating harm Burge wrought on individuals and families in the African American community in Chicago; and 2) the lack of responsibility and remorse Burge has expressed for the heinous crimes he committed. For these reasons, Burge must be given a much more severe sentence that is commensurate with the harm he has not only inflicted, but that he has, for decades, also failed to acknowledge and mitigate.

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