Our view: Charge brings some hope for the rest of us
SouthtownStar editorial December 10, 2012 9:26PM
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:16AM
After eight years of grieving, anger and frustration, Nanci Koschman finally got a measure of justice last week in the April 2004 death of her 21-year-old son.
A special grand jury indicted Richard “R.J.” Vanecko for involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Koschman, who was punched in the face during an early-morning confrontation on a Chicago street and struck his head on the pavement in falling. He died 11 days later.
Vanecko is a nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley. That’s likely why it took an outrageous length of time and a special prosecutor to bring the charge against him, notably after Daley left office.
The original police investigation was a mess — replete with initial delays, missing files and misleading reports about witnesses’ statements. Twice in seven years, Chicago police found no reason to charge Vanecko, concluding that he acted in self-defense, even though they never spoke to him about the incident.
The case went cold for years, and Vanecko would not be charged today without a fortunate confluence of factors.
First and foremost, a series of stories by a determined group of investigative reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times who resurrected the case and brought public pressure to reopen it. Aided by public interest lawyers, Nanci Koschman a year ago called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to look into her son’s death.
There also was a tough and independent judge, a Republican, who found that the self-defense idea was “fiction ... conjured up by police and prosecutors.” He chose as special prosecutor a former U.S. attorney who has defended the politically powerful but nonetheless conducted an aggressive inquiry — one that should continue in trying to learn whether there was any criminal conduct by police.
Whether Vanecko is convicted — he’s pleaded not guilty — the fact that he has been charged is justice not only for Nanci Koschman but for all of us.
In Chicago and Cook County, the political elite almost always get their way. But sometimes the average guy has his day.