APOLLO BEACH — Outwardly, Jon Burge is an average guy in this waterfront town.
But early Tuesday, FBI agents arrived with allegations that were anything but ordinary.
Burge, a retired Chicago police commander, was charged with lying about whether he and his officers tortured and physically abused suspects in police custody as far back as the 1980s.
In a three-count indictment unsealed Tuesday, Burge, 60, was charged with obstruction of justice and perjury, accused of lying and impeding court proceedings in November 2003, during a civil case alleging that he and others had tortured suspects.
Burge had been hounded by allegations of torture, including the use of cattle prods, since long before he was fired from the Chicago police in 1993. The next year he moved with his pension to a $154,000 white house with coral shutters on Flamingo Road.
Chicago investigators found evidence of the torture. Inmates left death row and sued. But Burge remained free. A special prosecutors' report in 2006 held that dozens had been tortured but that officers could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out, according to the Chicago Tribune.
With Tuesday's indictment, prosecutors sought justice by another means: through charges of perjury and obstruction.
"There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station. There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits," said Chicago's U.S. attorney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald. "No person is above the law, and nobody — even a suspected murderer — is beneath its protection."
Central to the case against Burge is a civil suit filed by Madison Hobley. Burge is accused of lying in written statements filed in that suit. The indictment says he lied when he denied knowing about Hobley's claims that he was tortured by police, including near suffocation with a typewriter cover.
Hobley had been a suspect in a 1987 arson that killed his wife and child and five others, the Chicago Tribune reported.
At a federal hearing Tuesday in Tampa, Burge was released on bail of $250,000. He must surrender his passport, restrict travel to Central Florida and Northern Illinois and turn over his guns to Thomas Brady, a neighbor.
Burge will be arraigned 9 a.m. Monday in Chicago. The defense attorney assigned to the Tampa hearing, Dionja Dyer, said he would plead not guilty.
Burge, a Chicago police officer from 1970 to 1993, said Tuesday that he has worked as a security consultant for trade shows, mostly in Las Vegas. If convicted on all counts, he could get up to 45 years in prison.
Brady, a former Chicago police officer who has known Burge since 1982, called him "the best cop I've ever met," and said he was shocked at the allegations.