Defense to get say in sentencing of ex-Chicago cop

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Supporters of a former Chicago police officer convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice over the torture of suspects — those who say he’s a “policeman’s policeman” who put victims and his colleagues first — will get their say at his sent

CHICAGO (AP) — Supporters of a former Chicago police officer convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice over the torture of suspects — those who say he’s a "policeman’s policeman" who put victims and his colleagues first — will get their say at his sentencing hearing Friday. Attorneys for Jon Burge say they plan to call four or five witnesses as they try to persuade U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow to impose the sentence of less than two years they are asking for rather than the 30-plus years prosecutors are seeking. Burge, 63, was convicted in June for lying about the torture and abuse of suspects during his decades-long career as a decorated Chicago police officer. His name has become synonymous with police brutality in the nation’s third-largest city, with allegations stretching back nearly 40 years and the case even affecting the state’s debate over the death penalty. Dozens of suspects — almost all of them black men — claimed Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes from robbery to murder. Anthony Holmes testified Thursday that he spent 30 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit after Burge electrically shocked and suffocated him into making a false confession. "He tried to kill me," Holmes read in a halting voice from a prepared statement. "It leaves a gnawing hurting feeling, I can’t ever shake it. I still have nightmares. . . . I wake up in a cold sweat. I still fear that I am going back to jail for this again." Holmes was one of five witnesses called by federal prosecutors to talk about the impact Burge’s actions have had on them, the police department and the city. Defense lawyers say the lengthy sentence sought by prosecutors would be "tantamount to life imprisonment" for Burge, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and has a host of other maladies, including congestive heart failure and chronic bronchitis. His lawyers also argue that the judge should take into account Burge’s military service and decades fighting crime. More than 30 people, many of them police officers, have sent letters to Lefkow, with one calling Burge a "policeman’s policeman." Other letter writers speak of Burge’s dedication to his job, selflessness and effectiveness as a police officer and investigator. Two jurors from Burge’s five-week trial also wrote letters on his behalf, with one suggesting a prison term of three years would be appropriate. The juror said he’d been contacted by defense attorneys, and prosecutors objected to the interaction Thursday, saying it violates legal and ethical rules. Lefkow said she would address the matter later. Burge was fired in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of a suspect, but he was not criminally charged in that case or any other, leading to widespread outrage in Chicago’s black neighborhoods. However, he was charged with lying about the alleged torture in a lawsuit filed by a former inmate who was sentenced to death before being pardoned. The indictment against Burge never said the inmate was tortured, instead accusing Burge of lying with respect to participating in or knowing of any torture under his watch. In 2003, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men from death row after Ryan said Burge extracted confessions from them using torture. The allegations of torture and coerced confessions eventually led to a still-standing moratorium on Illinois’ death penalty. A bill to abolish capital punishment in the state is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature. Associated Press writer Michael Tarm contributed to this report. Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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