Jon Burge is one of the most notorious crooked cops in American history—a man who oversaw the torture of more than 100 Black men over the course of decades while they were in the custody of Chicago police.
And now Burge is once again a free man, after serving just three and a half years in prison—and collecting his $3,000-a-month pension the entire time. Burge, 66, who terrorized Black men on the South Side, has been collecting his pension since the 1990s.
Burge’s case is one of the most glaring examples of how the criminal justice system is set up to protect its own, while brutally mistreating African-American men across the nation. Burge strolled out of federal prison on Thursday, three-and-a-half years after beginning his sentence for his 2010 conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about police torture.
That’s right—Burge wasn’t even convicted for committing the torture, but instead for lying about it.
How bad was the torture?
One of his earliest victims was Anthony Holmes, who in 1973 was electrically shocked by Burge, who put a plastic bag over his head while torturing him to elicit a signed confession for a murder Holmes said he didn’t commit. Holmes had to serve a full 30-year sentence for the murder—and has been unsuccessful in seeking reparations.
After Burge was released to a halfway house until his sentence is up in February, Holmes said to DNAInfo Chicago.
“At least he’s got a pension. We came out of there with nothing,” said Holmes, who is close to 70.
There are about 115 known victims who were tortured by Burge and his midnight crew from the early ’70s to the early ’90s, according to attorney Joey Mogul, who has been a vocal advocate for torture victims through the People’s Law Office and the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project.
Of that number, Mogul said only about 16 have received any sort of legal compensation from the city.
A significant number of Chicago aldermen and others would like to see reparations for Burge’s torture victims and have called for a $20 million fund to reward and compensate them.
“It’s time for the City Council to make amends,” said Ald. Joe Moreno, lead sponsor of the proposed reparations ordinance, in a Thursday news conference at City Hall.
Referring to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s public apology a year ago, Moreno said, “Apologies are great, but they don’t pay the bills.”
“While Jon Burge will leave prison today, the horrible stain he left on Chicago’s history remains and we sympathize with his victims,” Emanuel said in a statement released this week. “He is a disgrace to the hard-working men and women at CPD and a disgrace to our city — and, most important, he has negatively impacted the lives of the very people he was sworn to protect.
“On behalf of the City of Chicago, I want to once again apologize to the victims and their families for the injustices they have suffered and reaffirm my pledge as mayor to do everything in my power to right these wrongs and bring a close to this dark chapter in Chicago’s history.”
Victim Darrell Cannon more than 30 years ago was tortured into falsely confessing to taking part in a murder. He was brutally shocked in the genitals with an electric cattle prod, beat with a flashlight and “shot” mock-execution style—and then in 1983 wrongly convicted and put in jail for 24 years. To put a exclamation mark on his nightmare, the U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this year decided that the $1,247 in compensation Cannon received as part of a 1988 settlement was all the money he would get.
“Even here in America you don’t expect for police officers to conduct themselves like that, but in that instance here everything they did to me they had did previously to other Afro-Americans which I wasn’t aware of until years later,” Cannon said during an appearance on HuffPo Live. “They told me before they tortured me that I could scream all I want and nobody was going to hear it. And it was true. Nobody heard me and now it is not far-fetched for anybody to think that such things could exist or did exist.”
In total, the city of Chicago has had to pay $64 million in court settlements on Burge-related torture cases filed before the statute of limitations ran out.