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Nephew of Chicago's Daley pleads not guilty to manslaughter

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Richard J. Vanecko, nephew of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley and grandson of the late mayor Richard J. Daley, pleaded not guilty on Monday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the 2004 death of a suburban Chicago man.

The case sparked controversy in the nation's third-largest city because of a long-running Chicago Sun-Times investigation into why Vanecko was not charged when he allegedly threw a punch that caused the death of David Koschman, 21.

Both the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's office declined to charge Vanecko while his uncle was mayor, according to court documents.

Vanecko appeared at a hearing in the Chicago criminal courts building on Monday. The judge assigned to the case, Arthur Hill Jr, had been an assistant state's attorney under Richard M. Daley when Daley was the chief prosecutor, and lawyers from both sides have to consider whether they would like the case reassigned.

"This court believes I can be fair and impartial in this case," Hill told the attorneys on Monday.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers declined to comment after Monday's appearance.

A Cook County judge appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as a special prosecutor last April to lead a new investigation, and Vanecko was charged last week.

The incident took place in the Rush Street area, a popular spot for nightlife, in April 2004. Koschman, described in court documents as 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 140 pounds, was out drinking with friends, according to court documents.

The group ran into a group that included Vanecko, and there was an argument, according to court documents.

Vanecko, 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 230 pounds, is accused of punching Koschman, who fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement and died about two weeks later, according to court documents.

The Daleys, Chicago's most prominent political family, also include William Daley, former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama and son of Richard J. Daley. The elder Daley served as mayor from 1955 to 1976, and Richard M. Daley was mayor from 1989 to 2011.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Matthew Lewis)

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