Torture for the Empire—From Chicago to Guantánamo

February 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Richard Zuley was a Chicago police lieutenant from 1977 to 2007. He was praised by his superiors for “solving” numerous serious crimes in Chicago. In a recent investigation by the Guardian newspaper, it came to light that he gained a high number of the confessions to crime by people in his custody by using cold-blooded torture. These facts were also detailed in November 2014 by Jeff Kaye on the Firedoglake website.

The Guardian investigation revealed that his favorite and often-used methods were:

“• Shackling suspects to police-precinct walls through eyebolts for hours on end.

“• Accusations of planting evidence when there was pressure for a high-profile murder conviction.

“• Threats of harm to family members of those under interrogation used as leverage.

“• Pressure on suspects to implicate themselves and others.

“• Threats of being subject to the death penalty if suspects did not confess.”

One of Zuley’s victims is Lathierial Boyd, who was freed in 2013 from an Illinois prison after being locked up for 23 years for a murder he did not commit. He was convicted after being framed by Zuley, who is now accused, in a civil suit filed by Boyd, of planting evidence and hiding crucial information. Another person sent to prison by Zuley is Benita Johnson, who is still doing a 60-year murder sentence. She told the Guardian that she had been shackled by Zuley to an eyebolt in a cell at the Belmont and Western police station for 24 hours and told she would never see her kids again: “Basically, they just tortured me, mentally, and somewhat physically, with the cuffs.” These brutal interrogations caused her to make a false confession, leading to her conviction.

At the same time he was a Chicago cop, Zuley was also serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve. After 9/11 he was called to active duty and became an “interrogator” at the newly established Guantánamo torture center sitting on U.S.-occupied land in Cuba. During his stay at Guantánamo, he carried out the same torturous techniques on prisoners who had been swept up in America’s so-called “war on terror.”

Much of this became public knowledge in late 2014, when the first memoir ever written by a prisoner at Guantánamo was published. In it, Mohamedou Ould Slahi identifies Richard Zuley as his interrogator and describes the twisted torture applied against him. He suffered the same physical and mental attacks as did Zuley’s victims in Chicago. Zuley even threatened to arrest his mother and lock her away in the Guantánamo dungeons. Slahi wrote his Guantánamo Diary in 2005. It was promptly locked away by the U.S. government, classified as a highly “secret” document that they intended would never be released. Finally, after nearly 10 years of court battles, a sanitized version was permitted for publication. During that time, a federal judge had also ordered the government to release Slahi himself for lack of evidence. But the U.S. has continued to illegally hold him prisoner at Guantánamo.

Ugly as his life’s work has been, Chicago/Guantánamo torturer Zuley is not unique. There is the case of the infamous Chicago police commander Jon Burge. Burge was well known on the streets of Chicago’s South Side because of his regular use of electrical shocks and phone-book beatings against Black people detained in his precinct. Over 200 cases of this torture between 1972 and 1991 were documented and Burge was fired as a cop in 1993. A number of people have since been freed from prison and the death penalty was discontinued in Illinois, partly because of the sickening extent of Burge’s extraction of false confessions under torture.

And the military connection with Burge is that Burge was a military policeman in the 1960s. In 1966 he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He was initially sent to South Korea but did make it to Vietnam at the height of the U.S. genocidal war against the people of Vietnam.

Mark Clements is one of Burge’s victims and now is a leading activist for justice for all victims of Chicago police torture and brutality. Clements told Revolution that Zuley is “another example of abuse by the Chicago Police Department,” and that he “must be held accountable” for his crimes. This is important because Burge escaped punishment for torture due to a statute of limitations for prosecution in the cases he is responsible for. Burge recently completed a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction for lying under oath about his crimes, but this was a mere slap on the wrist for this vicious torturer. This dangerous criminal is now back on the streets.

More about Zuley’s Chicago torture regime is sure to be revealed if Lathierial Boyd’s wrongful conviction civil rights case goes to court. Boyd’s attorney told the Guardian that more wrongful conviction lawsuits are quite possible. The Guardian investigation also shows that the Illinois State Attorney is seeking information about other civilian complaints against Zuley.

This trail of torture leads from the cold concrete cells of Chicago’s police stations to the stark cages of Guantánamo’s Camp Delta... from the napalm-seared war against the liberation fighters of Vietnam in the 1960s to the attacks of the occupying pigs against the downpressed in the ghettos and barrios of Chicago over the last 40 years.

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