Meet the players in the next Laquan McDonald-related trial
The unprecedented trial of three Chicago cops accused of covering up details of the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald gets underway Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
Former Detective David March, ex-Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney all face charges alleging they filed false police reports that exaggerated the threat posed by McDonald before Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times.
Unlike Van Dyke’s recent trial on murder charges, all three defendants accused in the alleged cover-up have waived their right to a jury and opted to have a judge decide their fate. Here’s a look at the key players:
A longtime Cook County prosecutor before taking the bench, Stephenson is known as a dependable, hardworking judge with a low-key demeanor, though some defense attorneys believe she too easily favors the prosecution. Stephenson has presided over cases at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for a decade but was only assigned her own courtroom last year. advanced degrees in both business and engineering. As an attorney, he has practiced throughout the country, including at the appellate level.
Kelly Warner: Warner’s work focuses in part on internal investigations and regulatory inquiries. She has taught at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law and is a director at the Chicago Bar Foundation. Breen Fahy
The defense attorneys
The veteran criminal defense attorney, who represents Walsh, is no stranger to high-stakes courtroom drama. He helped clear Gary Dotson of a rape-related conviction in what became the nation's first DNA exoneration in 1985. A decade later, Breen was the lead counsel in the 1995 acquittal of Rolando Cruz, who had twice been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of Naperville schoolgirl Jeanine Nicarico. The former prosecutor has more than 40 years in private criminal defense work and his well-known clients have included judges, politicians and, most recently, George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
William Fahy: Fahy, who represents Gaffney, is a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney who prosecuted death penalty cases during his decade in the office before he launched his own practice. He has carved out a niche defending police officers, firefighters and other government officials in criminal and administrative disciplinary proceedings. One of his most notorious cases was defending Anthony Abbate, a police officer, in the off-duty beating of a female bartender caught on security cameras inside a Northwest Side bar.
James McKay: The attorney for March, McKay was a longtime top Cook County assistant state’s attorney who for three decades served as lead counsel in several high-profile criminal prosecutions, including the slayings of three members of singer Jennifer Hudson’s family, four separate killings of Chicago police officers, the fatal shooting of community activist Arnold Mireles and the prosecution of serial killers Andrew Urdiales and Andre Crawford. In private practice, he works in criminal defense and represents civil plaintiffs in personal injury, medical malpractice and nursing home neglect cases.
Todd Pugh: He represents Walsh with Breen, his law partner. As a rookie law school student, Pugh assisted in the high-profile exonerations of Gary Gauger and Rolando Cruz. Pugh met Breen during Cruz’s 1995 retrial. He continued his work with Breen as a law clerk and joined the firm after graduating from law school. While the two have partnered in noteworthy cases in state and federal court, Pugh is also well versed in appeals and post-conviction work. He won a reversal in 2000 in a DuPage County shaken-baby murder case. Pugh is a frequent lecturer on trial practice and forensic evidence and an adjunct professor at his alma mater, DePaul University College of Law.
Chicago police Officer Thomas Gaffney, left, ex-Officer Joseph Walsh and former Detective David March.