Real concerns about a fair trial in Koschman-Vanecko case

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Real concerns about a fair trial in Koschman-Vanecko case
By Ray Hanania

A lot of people in the news media are concerned that clout will protect Richard Vanecko, the nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, from being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2004 death of David Koschman.

But I think the real concern should be that Vanecko is being set up as the victim in this saga, which is being driven by a newspaper that is on the brink of financial collapse and so badly needs another clouted-in Pulitzer Prize.

If Vanecko is found not guilty, the odds of winning a Pulitzer will drop significantly. But if the newspaper can continue to bully everyone, and play a role in the selection of a judge that sees the facts in their “objective” manner, the Sun-Times will win its Pulitzer and it can snub its nose at Wall Street, it’s rival the Chicago Tribune and its army of critics who still contend that the Sun-Times is the most politically influenced newspaper in America.

The judge in the case is Arthur Hill Jr., who I knew and met when he worked under Daley in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and later at City Hall. He’s a smart and fair person, reflected in the fact that when the county’s computer system randomly selected his name from the list of potential judges, he immediately felt compelled to disclose his past positions working for Daley.

Two of the Sun-Times columnists, Mark Brown and Carol Marin, who moonlights at three other jobs including as a political reporter at WMAQ TV, have called on Hill to recuse himself from their newspaper’s prosecution case.

They’re being unfair, of course. They really don’t care about fairness for Koschman at all, but rather their story. Because this case is a wholly-owned subsidiary if the Chicago Sun-Times.

There is no doubt that it’s a news story. Daley’s nephew gets in a fist fight with another man and the nephew, Vanecko, is never identified.

But clearly, the Sun-Times is arguing that Vanecko is guilty. They are arguing it openly in how they are covering the story. The fact that the newspaper’s twp top columnists have come down against Hill only emphasizes that point that Vanecko can’t get a fair trial because the newspaper has already decided where this story is going.

So have others, like WBBM TV’s commentator Walter Jacobson. Hill is a political guy, he says. So is ever judge in the Cook County system, Walter! Chicago’s media looks at judges the same way America looks at Middle East dictators. If the dictator is our friend, we turn a blind eye. If the dictator attacks us or our friends, the dictator has to go.

That’s exactly what’s happening to the media’s perspective on Hill.

I would urge Hill not to recuse himself from the case and to instead be a fair and objective judge, reviewing the facts and the evidence.

There is no evidence at all that Vanecko intended to kill Koschman. In fact Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who up until last week was the darling of the Chicago Sun-Times until she defended her office’s decision not to pursue the case because of a lack of evidence against Vanecko, said that her investigators concluded that Koschman started the fight.

Vanecko is a bigger person and he punched Koschman. Koschman fell to the ground. He didn’t die there. He died 11 days later, allegedly from the blow to his head.

It is tragic that someone died, but doesn’t the newspaper think that maybe Koschman was the problem. Yes he died, but could he have provoked this fight?

To the Chicago Sun-Times, the facts are irrelevant. Vanecko is the nephew of a former Mayor, one they occasionally battled. Now that Daley is out of office, they don’t have to suck up to him anymore, as they have done many times over the years.

The Sun-Times has his successor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and they are sucking up to him pretty good – at least while he is in office.

How many times have pals of the reporters and columnists who held jobs in government and the justice system benefited from the newspaper turning a blind eye to their political indiscretion and actions? Newspaper protect their friends, pals and even relatives who work for government, keeping them our of the public scrutiny. Wouldn’t look good if a big shot newspaper columnist or reporter was close to a judge or a lawyer in a case.

Alvarez declined to prosecute the case because she said there wasn’t enough evidence. In fact, even with the stories, there isn’t any more evidence in the case now than there was before, or even a suggestion that maybe Vanecko did anything to cover his own tracks.

There is a special prosecutor now because the Sun-Times put the story on its front page the way it often always grinds its axe when it is about to swing at someone they dislike. An axe that rarely if ever swings at their friends.

Vanecko pled not guilty and is being brought before a judge not because the evidence warrants it, but because the Chicago Sun-Times has an axe to grind a a Pulitzer Prize to win.

And in their book, libeling Hill’s reputation by suggesting he could not be a fair and partial judge is critical to improving their odds of getting Vanecko convicted.

The Sun-Times needs that conviction. They need that Pulitzer Prize.

What’s left of the “professional” media will come to the defense of the Sun-Times and Carol Marin. By the way, how did Marin come to overshadow the investigation which was driven by two great reporters, Tim Novak and Chris Fusco? You can bet Marin willw ant a part of the Vanecko-Koschman Pulitzer.

Oh? Am I being to critical? You mean as critical as the newsmedia often is of others.

That’s right. The news media loves to dish out the criticism.

But the truth is, they just can’t take it.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. Reach him at

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This post has already been read 1803 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania