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Torture Victim James Kluppelberg Sues Chicago and Police

James Kluppelberg

James Kluppelberg

Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service

One of Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s torture victims spent 24 years in prison for an arson-murder he did not commit after cops made him confess by beating him “so violently he was urinating blood,” the man claims in court.

James Kluppelberg sued Burge, 13 police officers, two members of the Chicago Fire Department, and the City of Chicago in Federal Court.

“Plaintiff James Kluppelberg spent more than two decades in prison for an arson-murder that he did not commit,” the complaint begins.

“Despite Mr. Kluppelberg’s innocence, the defendants beat a false confession out of him, hitting him so violently that he was urinating blood. The trial court ultimately suppressed Mr. Kluppelberg’s confession, finding that it was ‘obvious’ that Mr. Kluppelberg had been severely mistreated, but not before the confession was used by the defendants to set in motion Mr. Kluppelberg’s wrongful arrest and prosecution.

“To corroborate Mr. Kluppelberg’s false confession, the defendants coerced false witness statements allegedly establishing how Mr. Kluppelberg purportedly set fire to a home, in which six people were killed. The defendants knew that these statements were absolutely false and the byproduct of their coercion, but nonetheless withheld that information from Mr. Kluppelberg.

“Additionally, to buttress the false confession and witness statements, the defendants conspired to fabricate arson evidence. Although the original fire investigators found that the origin and cause of the fire could not be determined because of the complete destruction of the building and the absence of any accelerant, the defendants ignored this scientifically sound conclusion and instead manufactured bogus ‘findings’ to corroborate the false witness statements. Just as with the confession and statements, the defendants knew that this evidence was false but nonetheless used it to wrongfully convict Mr. Kluppelberg.

“Indeed, well before Mr. Kluppelberg’s arrest and conviction, the defendants were aware of a likely, alternative suspect for the arson. This person had admitted to setting fire to a nearby home and to possibly having set the fire for which Mr. Kluppelberg was ultimately arrested and wrongfully convicted. Despite the obvious exculpatory value of this information, it was never disclosed to Mr. Kluppelberg or his defense attorneys nor even to the prosecutor. It was intentionally buried in violation of Mr. Kluppelberg’s constitutional rights.”

Kluppelberg claims that Burge “was personally involved in the investigation at issue here and made public comments falsely attributing the crime to Mr. Kluppelberg. He also supervised some, if not all, of the defendants who committed the constitutional violations at issue here.”

New evidence established Kluppelberg’s innocence in 2008, and he was released after spending 24 years in prison, he says in the complaint.

Burge, 65, was sentenced in 2011 to 4½ years in prison for lying about police torture. Burge denied that officers ever abused suspects in custody, but evidence at a 2003 trial showed that he suffocated suspects with plastic bags, shocked them with electrical devices and put loaded guns to their heads.

Burge’s case led then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan to place a moratorium on the state’s death penalty and to pardon four of Burge’s alleged victims.

Other officers named in the complaint include Leonard Rolston, John Schmitz, William Foley, William Kelly, Detective Urbon, Thomas Ptak, Michael Duffin, George Jenkins, Dets. Nelson, Vega, W. Micek, Guest, and L. Tuider. Defendants Frances Burns and William Alletto are members of the Chicago Fire Department.

Kluppelberg seeks punitive damages for violation of due process, failure to intervene, conspiracy, emotional distress, and malicious prosecution.

He is represented by Gayle Horn with Loevy & Loevy.

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