Image: Jon Burge
Steve Nesius  /  AP
Four death row inmates convicted on evidence gathered by the unit led by former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, shown here, were pardoned in 2003.
updated 10/27/2008 3:04:50 PM ET 2008-10-27T19:04:50

The former Chicago police lieutenant at the center of allegations that suspects were tortured into confessing pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he lied about their treatment.

An attorney for Jon Burge entered the plea to charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. Leaning on a wooden cane, Burge said nothing during the brief hearing except to wish the judge a good morning. Outside the courthouse, protesters called for him to serve time.

Prosecutors claim Burge, 60, lied under oath on written answers in a civil-rights lawsuit five years ago when he denied he knew about or took part in the torture of suspects to get confessions during the 1970s and '80s. He was fired by the city in 1993 and was arrested last week in Florida, where he now lives.

Before leaving office in 2003, then-Gov. George Ryan pardoned four death row inmates convicted on evidence gathered by the unit Burge commanded. The four later reached a $20 million settlement with the city.

Burge is free on $250,000 bond, and the judge excused him from having to return to Chicago from Florida next month for a routine hearing.

Moratorium on death penalty
After the hearing, federal marshals escorted Burge out of the federal courthouse out of the view of protesters outside, apparently taking him through a basement tunnel.

In front of the building, about two dozen people chanted, "Burge must serve time! Burge must serve time!"

The indictment said Burge lied in his response to the civil-rights lawsuit when he said he and other detectives hadn't tortured anyone. That lawsuit, filed by Madison Hobley, alleged that Burge and other detectives had tortured him in 1987 when he was accused of setting a fire that killed seven people, including his wife and son.

Hobley was convicted and spent 13 years on death row before becoming one of the four men Ryan pardoned in January 2003. The other 167 people then on Illinois' death row had their sentences commuted by Ryan, in most cases to life in prison. Ryan also declared a moratorium on the death penalty that remains in place.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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