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FORMER COP ACCUSED IN TORTURE

A federal indictment says Jon Burge lied about abuse in his Chicago command.

Outwardly, Jon Burge is an average guy on Flamingo Drive in this waterfront town.

But around sunrise Tuesday, FBI agents arrived at his door with allegations that were anything but ordinary.

Burge, a retired Chicago police commander, was arrested and charged with lying about whether he and officers under his command tortured and physically abused suspects in police custody dating back to the 1980s.

In a three-count indictment unsealed Tuesday, Burge, 60, was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury. He was accused of lying and impeding court proceedings in November 2003, during a civil case alleging that he and others had tortured suspects in custody.

Burge had been hounded by allegations of torture and abuse - including the use of electric shock and cattle prods - long before he was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993. The next year he moved with his pension to Florida, where he paid $154,000 for a white house with coral shutters on Flamingo Drive.

Chicago city investigators found evidence of the torture. Inmates were released from death row and filed lawsuits. But Burge remained free. A special prosecutors' report in 2006 concluded that dozens of suspects had been tortured by Chicago police 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.

"No person is above the law and nobody - even a suspected murderer - is beneath its protection," said Chicago's U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

At the heart of the charges against Burge is a civil suit filed by Madison Hobley. Burge is accused of lying in written statements filed in court during that case.

The indictment says Burge lied when he said he did not observe or know anything about Hobley's claims that he was tortured in police custody, including near suffocation with a typewriter cover.

Hobley had been arrested in connection with a 1987 arson that killed seven people, including his wife and child, the Chicago Tribune reported.

At a federal court hearing Tuesday in Tampa, Burge was released on bail of $250,000, secured by his home.

The defense attorney assigned to the Tampa hearing, Dionja Dyer, said he would plead not guilty.If convicted, Burge could face 20 years in prison on each count of obstructing justice and up to five years for perjury. The statute of limitations expires in November.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

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