Chicago Police Torture Victims Win Settlement, But Former Mayor Won’t Testify

The city of Chicago is preparing to pay out more than $5 million to former inmate Michael Tillman, one of 110 alleged African American victims of police torture under long-time police commander Jon Burge. Tillman spent more than two decades in prison for the 1986 rape and murder of a South Side woman, which he confessed to after detectives repeatedly beat him with a phone book, suffocated him with a typewriter cover, poured soda up his nose, threatened him with a gun, and burned him with a cigarette lighter.

The Finance Committee also called for a $1.8 million payment to David Fauntleroy, who was tortured into confessing to a 1983 murder that landed him a prison sentence of 25 years.

Though Chicago taxpayers have already paid nearly $44.9 million in settlements for these abuses, one of the central figures in the case, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, will dodge orders to testify about his knowledge of the scandal. Tillman’s lawsuit claims Daley, who was state’s attorney at the time, knew Burge was torturing suspects and aided in a cover-up when he became mayor. Daley’s office flatly denies any knowledge of the torture.

Burge himself was already convicted in 2010 for lying about the practices and is serving 4 and a half years in prison.

Tillman recanted his forced confession after just a few days, but stayed locked up until attorneys brought evidence proving a systemic pattern of torture by Burge and his team of so-called “Asskickers,” along with a compelling case for Tillman’s innocence. Ultimately the Cook County Special Prosecutor was convinced to dismiss Tillman’s case in January 2010, and the Chief Judge issued him a judicial certificate of innocence.


On the 25th anniversary of Tillman’s arrest, a district court judge upheld Tillman’s claims against Daley, ruling that Daley could be held as a conspirator in the scheme to torture and cover-up. Though Daley won’t be deposed now that Tillman has agreed to settle the lawsuit, Tillman is hardly the end of the scandal; five other men still have pending torture lawsuits against the city and could still question Daley about his role in the abuse and cover-up.

Tillman and his attorneys have called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to publicly apologize on behalf of the city and its police department to all Burge torture victims and to Chicago’s African American community on Wednesday, when settlement is formally presented to him and the entire Chicago City Council for approval.