Former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge, tightlipped for years about allegations that suspects were tortured under his watch, said Thursday he never physically abused two men who testified to being shocked and beaten by officers seeking confessions.
Burge testified in his own defense at his perjury and obstruction of justice trial, where he's pleaded not guilty to lying in a civil lawsuit when he denied seeing or participating in the torture of suspects.
He began Thursday by walking jurors through his lengthy police career and commendations received from both the police department and the U.S. Army. Under defense questioning, Burge denied ever abusing Anthony Holmes and Melvin Jones, who both have testified for the prosecution.
Federal prosecutors have presented testimony from five men who say Burge and officers under his command suffocated, shocked and abused them during the 1970s and 1980s to elicit confessions to crimes ranging from robbery to murder.
Burge also planned to testify that he was at a news conference at Chicago police headquarters when one of the men, Andrew Wilson, claims Burge and other officers held him down against a hot radiator, suffocated and electrocuted him, according to defense attorney Marc Martin.
Burge lost his composure and was speechless for several moments after a Martin asked him about the arrest of Wilson, who was convicted of killing two Chicago police officers in 1982. Martin asked Burge if it was an emotional topic for him, and he tearfully responded "very much so."
Burge was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993 over allegations he mistreated a suspect. No charges were filed. In all, more than 100 victims say the torture started in the 1970s and persisted until the '90s at police stations on the city's south and west sides.