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Ex-Chicago cop indicted on charges related to torture

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  • NEW: 2 of more than 100 black men who made allegations describe alleged torture
  • NEW: Statute of limitations has expired for torture charges
  • Federal indictment says former supervisor lied about abuse of suspects
  • Jon Burge supervised detectives on Chicago's South Side in 1980s
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- A former Chicago police commander was arrested Tuesday on charges related to accusations that he and officers under his command tortured and abused suspects in the 1980s, federal officials said.

Prosecutors allege Jon Burge lied and impeded court proceedings in November 2003 by giving false written answers to questions in a civil lawsuit alleging the torture and abuse of people in custody, said a news release from Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Burge was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury.

"There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station," Fitzgerald said in the release. "There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits."

More than 100 men -- all of them African-American -- have accused police under Burge's command of abusing or torturing them.

Burge himself was found liable for torture in a civil suit in the early 1990s, but until now had never been charged with a crime.

Burge was with the Chicago police from 1970 to 1993, the federal indictment handed up Thursday says. He worked at Area Two police headquarters on the city's South Side as an officer from 1972 to 1974, a sergeant from 1977 to 1980, and a lieutenant from 1981 to 1986.

During that latter period, he was supervisor of detectives working in the Area Two violent crimes unit. Later, he was commander of the bomb and arson unit and commander of Area Three detectives.

The Chicago Police Department suspended Burge in 1991 and fired him in 1993, the indictment says.

The indictment alleges that during his time in Area Two, Burge at least once was present for, or participated in, the torture and physical abuse of suspects in police custody.

The indictment also alleges that during the time he supervised Area Two violent crimes detectives, he was aware that his detectives engaged in torture and physical abuse of suspects at least once.

Two men whose murder convictions were overturned after they spent years in prison said Burge or his officers tortured confessions out of them.

In 1973, Anthony Holmes told police he'd killed a Chicago bar owner, but the confession came after Burge had put a bag over his head and shocked him several times with wires attached to his handcuffs, he told CNN.

"A few times, I thought I was dead," Holmes said. "After about the last time I thought I was dead, I said, 'Whatever you want to know, I'm gonna tell it.' "

Holmes served 34 years in prison before gaining his freedom.

In 1983, Burge and his men stuck a shotgun in Darrell Cannon's mouth and shocked him with a cattle prod to produce a confession, Cannon said.

Cannon served 23 years in prison before his conviction was thrown out in April.

"No person is above the law, and nobody -- even a suspected murderer -- is beneath its protection," Fitzgerald's statement said. "The alleged criminal conduct by defendant Burge goes to the core principles of our criminal justice system."

FBI agents arrested Burge, 60, at his home in Apollo Beach, Florida. He was expected to appear later Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

He will appear at a later date in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where any trial would take place.

Authorities can't charge anyone with torture in the case because it happened too long ago, Fitzgerald said at a news conference in Chicago.

"The statute of limitations on any crimes that happened in the 1980s or 1993, they're gone," he said.

CNN's Randi Kaye contributed to this report.

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