By Bob Negele
Richard Vanecko, nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, pleaded not guilty in court on charges of involuntary manslaughter which stemmed from an incident in 2004. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the nephew of the iconic mayor will fight the charges against him.
The charges arose from a highly publicized incident in 2004 when Vanecko and the victim, David Koschman, got into an altercation after a night of drinking. Koschman, 21 at the time, had been drinking on Rush Street- a late night bar area that many people go to after other bars close.
Vanecko allegedly knocked Koschman backwards and he hit the back of his head on the pavement. Koschman died 11 days later in the hospital.
At the time of the altercation, Koschman was deemed the aggressor by the police. However, parts of that decision didn’t sit well with many. One thing, for instance, was the size difference between the two. Vanecko, at 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds, towered over the much smaller Koschman, who was only 5 foot 5 and 125 pounds.
It didn’t take long for many to speculate that the clout of Vanecko’s family helped keep him from facing charges.
Vanecko is being charged with involuntary manslaughter. The incident occurred over 8 years ago, which may lead some to wonder why the statute of limitations doesn’t prevent the charges. While the statute of limitations would prevent many charges, involuntary manslaughter does not have one.
The statute of limitations is different for each crime. We have statute of limitations in order to make sure that people have enough evidence and witnesses to defend themselves from charges. It becomes very difficult to get witnesses and evidence from something that happened decades ago.
While we value the defendants’ ability to gain evidence, we have placed a higher value on preventing murderers from walking free. As a result, these charges could have been brought up in another 15 years (at least the statute of limitations wouldn’t have prevented it).
Last week a special grand jury found that Vanecko, “recklessly performed acts which were likely to cause great bodily harm to another.” It was this finding that has allowed the case to continue to the formal trial. If convicted, Vanecko faces up to 5 years in prison.
Vanecko’s legal team is adamant that their client is innocent, and acted in self-defense. “[Koschman] was clearly acting in an unprovoked, physically aggressive manner… We are confident that when all the facts are aired in a court of law, the trier of fact will find Mr. Vanecko not guilty.”
The case has gathered considerable publicity, and it’s a pretty safe bet that every action taken in court will make the Chicago newspapers. When the trial ends, only one headline will really matter though: guilty, or innocent.