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Former Chicago police officer convicted of lying in torture case

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Jury finds Jon Burge lied in 2003 civil suit about torture, abuse of people in custody
  • U.S. attorney "grateful" for verdict
  • Burge was fired in 1993
  • Victim says he is "relieved" at least one officer will be punished

(CNN) -- A former Chicago, Illinois, police commander was convicted Monday of perjury and obstruction of justice charges related to accusations that he and officers under his command tortured and abused suspects in the 1980s.

A federal jury found Jon Burge guilty of lying and impeding court proceedings in a 2003 civil lawsuit by giving false written answers to questions alleging the torture and abuse of people in custody.

"We're very grateful that after a long delay a measure of justice was achieved today," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said after the verdict.

Burge was with the Chicago Police from 1970 to 1993, the 2008 federal indictment against him said. 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 the 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, according to the indictment.

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 said.

The indictment also alleged 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.

Fitzgerald said Monday that forms of torture used by some officers during that period included electric shock, suffocation, threats with guns and radiator burns.

Mark Clements, one of the men who said he was tortured into confessing crimes under Burge's watch, celebrated the verdict outside the courtroom Monday.

"[I'm] relieved that finally at least one of these people are now going to finally feel the pain," said Clements, 45, who spent 28 years in prison after falsely confessing to four murders and an arson.

"My daughter is 29 years old," an emotional Clements said. "I missed all those years with my daughter sitting in those prison cells for a crime I didn't commit. I do not feel sorry for Jon Burge."

Flint Taylor, an attorney who represented many of Burge's alleged victims, thanked the jury for the verdict.

"We are elated that finally, 25 years after this evidence first came to light, there is some modicum of justice in this case," Taylor said.

But he emphasized the need for a federal statute in such crimes, "so that next time ... they will be tried for torture, not for perjury, no matter how long it takes to uncover those crimes."

Prosecutors were unable to charge anyone with torture in the case because it happened too long ago, Fitzgerald has said.