Nanci Koschman said she had no interest in making the man who threw the punch that caused her child’s death go to jail.


And just for a moment, the rivers of power were still. The city narrowed it’s eyes as generations of Chicago flim flam, street scum con men sneered and said, but the fix was in, there are ways that business is ah consummated here. From the toothless manically grinning foot soldier to the captains of pin stripe power, there was a pause when the grand journey indictment came down yesterday and charged RJ “with physical force, and without lawful justification . . . caused the death of David Koschman.” Nanci’s 21-year-old son.


When the judge convened the grand jury and put Dan Webb, perhaps Chicago’s finest lawyer, in charge, the judge said;




 “ We have a dead body. This is not a whodunit. We know who done it. There’s a known offender and yet no charges.”  Judge Michael P. Toomin. April 6, 2012.


RJ threw the punch around quarter past three in front of a Rush Street bar in Chicago eight years ago. Rush Street is an aging and rapidly shrinking relic of another time. A place where people from somewhere else go to drink and find what somehow always seems to be just out of reach. And at 3 a.m. as the last vestiges of hope for hooking up fade into the waves of buried anger and fear; sometimes words are exchanged. Faces turn red and perhaps a punch is thrown.

RJ, towering over the smaller, younger Koschman, let loose, Koschman’s head flung back, he fell and his head hit the concrete curb. He never woke up.


That’s when RJ ran.


But it’s what happened next that locks an iron hand grip on all of us. Not just the powerful. Those who give the quiet nods and own the world. What happened next is about every single soul connected to any community.


What happened next is RJ was never even questioned. Certainly never charged with involuntary manslaughter. That took eight years. Eight years of files being lost, procedures ignored or dragged out. Eight years of silence.


Except for Nanci Koschman and her foolish heart.


Maybe you know someone with a foolish heart. A person who simply doesn’t stop trying to do what’s right. No matter what. Foolish hearts aren’t about making a statement or winning a horse race, or making someone loose. Foolish hearts beat to their very own individual rhythm. No two are alike. Foolish hearts don’t care about the odds, or the way things are and always have been.


Nanci Koschman knew that RJ stood for “Richard J” the patriarch Mayor of Chicago. Father of Richard M.


Grandfather of RJ Vanecko. Power from not just right now. Power that goes back generations.


This kid was a Daley. And in Chicago? It doesn’t get any bigger than that. One does not go up against a Daley. There are unspoken rules. Even if Richard M Daley kept the city from splitting apart at the seams for decades, made the city beautiful, made lives better for some and not so much for others. Even if he was a loving husband and father married to a woman who was grace personified. Even taking into account the range of talent in any given family.


One does not go up against a Daley. Unless you have the foolish heart of a Nanci Koschman. A woman with no money, power or connections. A woman whose story got noticed by three hard core consummate  journalists, Tim Novak, Chris Fusco and Carol Marin. Breathing life into journalism by championing Nanci Koschman.


The journalists wrote it all down. David Koschman was murdered. It wasn’t planned. Wasn’t intentional. But it happened.


Then the system of power started grinding, geared up, and protected the killer. To this day, the impotent raging voices paid by the powerful slam David as drunk and the aggressor. 


But it did not work.


What worked was Nanci Koschman’s foolish heart. Chicago Sun Times writer Mary Mitchell says, “lot’s of days I feel like Chicago is going to hell in a handbasket. Not today.”


Today RJ Vanecko, power personified , has been indicted for involuntary manslaughter in an 8 year old case.


8 years of Nanci Koschman’s foolish heart.


Vanecko will be arraigned at the criminal courts complex at 26th and California. He’s already made bail. There is a really good chance that he will never see the inside of a jail cell.


But Nanci Koschman is not looking for RJ to go to jail. She just wanted to make sure the story was told right. So her son could rest in peace.


Now the story has been told. Told right.


For Nanci Koschman. And her foolish heart.

Views: 114

Comment by Emily Conyngham on December 4, 2012 at 9:11pm

Terrific, CG. You sure find the "human" in the interesting stories of your city.

Comment by Chicago Guy on December 5, 2012 at 5:32am

Thanks Emily---I found this woman and the journalists really inspiring.

Hi Veronica--Thanks for the read!

Comment by JMac1949 Memories on December 5, 2012 at 7:57am

Great post and I'm not being picky but you've got a spell check typo in the second 'graph : "grand journey..." or was that poetic license?  R&L ;-)


Comment by Chicago Guy on December 5, 2012 at 8:07am

Hey jmac---Good catch! I was wondering if anyone would see that. I actually did mean to say grand journey as a contrast to the harsh, real quote. But, I probably should check the expiration date on my poetic license!

Comment by Jeanne Sathre on December 5, 2012 at 9:05am

Visions of Royko. Well done.

Comment by Davyboy on December 5, 2012 at 10:22am

I agree... well told and deservedly so.  Pittsburgh bar scene has moved in this violent direction.  I do not go to these venues anymore for many reasons.

Comment by Chicago Guy on December 5, 2012 at 4:02pm

Jeanne---I wish! By now, Royko would have had an unforgettable moniker for RJ, the column would be exactly 800 words, and not one would be wasted. Oh, and no one would ever forget it. And he'd do it 5 days a week. (OK yeah. A bit of hero worship here!)

Davyboy---Yep. Sometimes it's just time to move on.


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