CITY HALL — Anjanette Young, who was left naked and handcuffed as officers wrongly raided her home in 2019, said Tuesday she feels “betrayed” by Mayor Lori Lightfoot as city attorneys fight Young’s lawsuit.
Young was launched into the national spotlight in late 2020 when CBS2 aired video of the wrongful raid on her home. The incident — and the city’s handling of the case — are under investigation by the city’s top watchdog and a former federal judge.
In February, Young filed a lawsuit against the city and 12 officers involved in the raid, alleging top officials, including Lightfoot, conspired to cover up the incident. Lightfoot publicly apologized to Young, but the city’s Law Department and Young’s attorney have not reached a settlement in the case.
“Mayor Lightfoot, you lied and denied having any knowledge of my case until you were forced to tell the truth. That makes you complicit in my book,” Young said at a Wednesday news conference. “I will continue to fight until I receive the justice that I am due, or until you honor your words when you met with me in December and said you would make me ‘whole.’”
Young and her attorney, Keenan Saulter, held the news conference across the street from City Hall, looking to turn up the heat on the city as her lawsuit works its way through the court system.
Saulter said he called the news conference after he learned the city’s Law Department will file a motion to dismiss the case.
Law Department spokeswoman Kristen Cabanban said the city had “no choice but to litigate” the case after Saulter rejected a settlement agreement.
Saulter met on May 27 with the city’s acting corporation counsel, Celia Meza, and two outside attorneys the city hired to handle the case, he said. During the mediation, the city offered Young a “take it or leave it” offer of less than half the $2.5 million the city paid to settle a similar case, he said.
“There is no disagreement that the events which occurred at Ms. Young’s home in February 2019 were traumatic for her and the community. No one should have to endure what Ms. Young experienced which is why the City has remained committed to mending the harm done and finding an equitable and expeditious resolution to this matter,” Cabanban said in a statement.
“We were encouraged when Mr. Saulter finally agreed to Mediation, a Mediation in which the City assumed all costs. We were hopeful that a robust discussion moderated by an experienced former federal judge would lead to a fair and judicious outcome – one that would have fairly addressed Ms. Young’s traumatic experience, but also fair to the taxpayers. Mr. Saulter chose to reject the City’s offers and walked away from further settlement discussions.
“In light of Mr. Saulter’s decision, we have no choice but to litigate. We still believe this is a case that should settle, but Mr. Saulter will have to bring a different mindset to the table. Meanwhile, we will carry on, not litigate in the press, and make no further comment,” Cabanban said.
City Council approved a $2.5 million settlement to Aretha Simmons on behalf of her daughter. The girl was 3 when police raided her home in 2014 and an officer pointed a gun at her.
“They were serious about making it look like they’ve done everything they could, but they weren’t serious about actually resolving the case,” Saulter said.
Young said the incident has “affected every aspect of my life.” She visits a therapist weekly, doesn’t sleep well, has taken days off work and is “hyper-vigilant” when she sees police officers or hears sirens.
“I should be focused on my healing, but because of a system that will not dismantle racist and corrupt police behavior, I am forced to be here today as both a victim and an activist,” Young said.
Young “feels betrayed” by Lightfoot, she said.
“I believed her when we met in December, when she came to the table, explaining to me how she was very hurt and apologetic for what I had experienced, and that she was committed to making me whole, her words. And yet here we are, almost six months later, and she’s threatening to dismiss this case,” she said.
Saulter said he regrets the December meeting with Lightfoot and the recent mediation with city attorneys to negotiate a settlement.
“We’ve done everything in our power to work with the city, to work with Mayor Lightfoot, to work with the city Law Department. They consistently choose to have empty words, empty promises, no action and no justice,” he said.
If the lawsuit proceeds to a jury trial, Saulter said it’s “an avenue we feel very comfortable in.”
Body-camera footage of the February 2019 raid shows 12 male officers bursting into Young’s home as she prepared for bed. Despite being naked and not matching the description of the suspect, Young was handcuffed nude, or partially nude, for 40 minutes as she said more than 40 times she was innocent and police were at the wrong home.
Lightfoot initially claimed she learned of the raid through the news station’s December coverage. She backtracked days later, admitting her staff alerted her to the raid more than a year earlier by email.
The Mayor’s Office later released select emails showing Lightfoot was sent a description of the “pretty bad wrongful raid” — including the fact Young was handcuffed naked — on November 11, 2019, as her staff scrambled to respond to a pending Freedom of Information Act demand Young filed seeking the videos, as well as an upcoming news report from CBS2.
The lawsuit details those emails, alleging they show the “beginning of the conspiracy and coverup between the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Office of Police Accountability and the Mayor’s Office.”
News of the raid, including the city’s Law Department’s failed attempt to block CBS2 from airing the video, kicked off a tumultuous period at City Hall, leading to the resignation of the city’s top attorney, Mark Flessner. His top deputy and the Law Department’s spokeswoman followed him out the door a day later.
Lightfoot said she was “blindsided” by the decision to attempt to block the footage from airing and vowed a thorough review of the city’s handing of the incident and its aftermath.
Lightfoot and police Supt. David Brown adjusted the department’s search warrant policies. But Young has been critical of the city for not passing the Anjanette Young Ordinance, which would codify stricter search warrant reforms in the city’s municipal code.
On Tuesday, Young said the ordinance bearing her name wouldn’t restrict officers and would “force them to do good work and it will reduce the level of trauma that families experience when a raid does happen.”
The Chicago Office of Police Accountability, the city’s Office of the Inspector General and former federal Judge Ann Claire Williams and her law firm, Jones Day, launched investigations into the raid and the city’s handling of the incident.
COPA’s investigation is complete and has been sent to Brown for review.
The lawsuit describes the raid in detail.
When Young reached for a jacket, the lawsuit alleges an officer pointed his gun at Young and shouted, “Let me see your f—ing hands.”
“Simply put, she thought at that moment and for nearly the entirety of the next hour that she was going to die in a hail of gunfire at the hands of individuals who ‘allegedly’ were sworn to serve and protect her,” the lawsuit says.
Police began the “conspiracy and coverup” when they walked out of Young’s home upon realizing they may have the wrong house and “purposely [made] the decision to disconnect their body worn cameras in violation” of Police Department policy, the lawsuit alleges.
“Sadly, the conspiracy didn’t end the night of this wrongful invasion into the sanctity of Ms. Young’s home,” it says.
The lawsuit says Lightfoot, the Police Department, COPA, the Law Department and city employees at the “highest levels became involved in the conspiracy to cover up these grotesque human rights violations.”
The emails show COPA launched its investigation into the raid the same day the Police Department was meant to respond to Young’s Freedom of Information Act request for video of the incident. Days later, the police department cited COPA’s investigation as justification to deny turning over the videos.
The nine-count lawsuit includes claims of false imprisonment, false arrest, assault, battery, invasion of privacy, trespassing, reckless infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.
Brown reprimanded the officers involved, assigning them to desk duty. He said at a City Council committee hearing on the incident the officers violated Young’s human rights.
“I’m very certain, and I’m not an attorney, that we will move forward in court. And if we have to go to trial, I’m ready to go to trial,” Young said Tuesday.
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