Judge steps aside in case involving Daley nephew

The special prosecutor in the case of Richard Vanecko, the nephew of former Mayor Richard Daley, is asking that a judge from outside Cook County be assigned to the case to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Cook County Judge Arthur Hill has recused himself from the case, despite saying both this week and last that he could be fair and impartial.

Vanecko was back in court today, after having a week to consider, along with attorneys from both sides, whether or not to request a new judge after Hill revealed he was a prosecutor under Vanecko’s uncle and that Daley later appointed him to the CTA Board.

When Hill withdrew the case went back to Judge Michael Toomin, who decided he would refer the case to Chief Judge Timothy Evans.  Evans will take the matter to the Illinois Supreme Court.  The judge invoked the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who said the appearance of justice is as important as its reality.

Vanecko has been indicted and is free on a $100,000 bond for the death of David Koschman, 21, who died days after a drunken fight near Rush Street in 2004.

Police at the time said Koschman was the aggressor and closed the case.  But about 100 pounds and nearly a foot in height separated the two, in Vanecko’s favor.

Vanecko’s attorneys are not happy with today’s decision, but they say he will be vindicated either way.

“I’m really outraged by the fact that because some newspaper reporters think that Cook County judges can’t be fair, that this case has to be reassigned,” defense attorney Marc Martin told reporters today.  “I have absolutely no reason to doubt the integrity of the Cook County judiciary.  It is really disheartening that these perceptions exist.”

Vanecko’s next court date will depend on the state Supreme Court and the reassignment of a judge to the case.

Vanecko, a resident of California, requested that he be allowed to travel within the lower 48 states.  That request was granted.

Vanecko has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter.

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