CHICAGO — City Council is on the verge of settling a lawsuit brought by Anjanette Young for $2.9 million nearly a year after video of the botched raid on her home shocked the city and led to investigations and resignations in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration.
The settlement was unanimously approved by City Council’s Finance Committee Monday, sending the matter to the full City Council to consider Wednesday. As of Monday morning, Young and her attorney had agreed to the settlement offer, said Corporation Counsel Celia Meza.
In February, Young sued the city, the Police Department and the 12 officers involved in the botched raid. The nine-count lawsuit alleges officers violated Young’s civil rights on the night of the incident and city officials, including Lightfoot, engaged in a conspiracy and cover up by denying the release of raid footage.
In a rare move, the proposed settlement was reviewed before the committee by the city’s top attorney, Meza. Meza’s nomination was briefly delayed this year by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) who cited their frustration the city was continuing to try to dismiss the lawsuit.
Meza told the committee the $2.9 million was a “fair and just” offer and if the lawsuit were to go to a jury trial, it was “not unreasonable” to expect Young would seek $13-$16 million.
The city successfully got several counts of the lawsuit thrown out, but at issue in a jury trial would be whether a jury believed officers involved acted with “willful and wanton” intent, Meza said.
“The city has never disputed the Ms. Young suffered an indignity on February 19, 2019,” Meza said. “And this settlement is presented to all of you in an attempt, at this state, to mitigate the potential risks of proceeding further in this case and also to provide Ms. Young and the city of Chicago closure on the events that took place.”
CBS Chicago aired footage of the February 2019 raid in a December 2020 broadcast. The raid, the result of a search warrant based on the bad tip of a single source, showed officers bursting through Young’s door seconds after knocking, then handcuffing Young and leaving her to stand naked in front of the all male police officers as she pleaded with them they were in the wrong home.
Lightfoot’s administration fought unsuccessfully to block the news station from airing the footage. In the days after the footage aired, Lightfoot at first said she was unaware of the raid but a day later admitted her staff had alerted her to the raid via email a year earlier.
Emails later released by the administration showed Lightfoot was sent an email by then deputy mayor for public safety, Susan Lee, that described the “pretty bad” raid in detail.
“I have a lot of questions about this one,” Lightfoot wrote back, adding the city’s chief risk office, Tamika Puckett, onto the email chain. “Can we do a quick call about it?”
Lightfoot later said she did not ask the Law Department to attempt to block the footage from airing. Corporation counsel Mark Flessner and two department officials resigned amid the unfolding scandal.
Lightfoot publicly and privately apologized to Young while her administration sought to dismiss Young’s lawsuit in court, leading Young to tell reporters in June she felt “betrayed” by the first term mayor.
Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, said in June Young was offered a “take or leave it” offer of less than half of $2.5 million — the sum the city paid to settle a similar case — during a May 27 meeting with Meza and outside attorneys hired by the city to handle the case.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released a report of its investigation into the raid in November, recommending discipline for several officers, including that Sgt. Alex Wolinski should be fired.
Those findings would “make it a little more difficult” for the city to defend the lawsuit, Meza said.
The city’s top watchdog conducted a separate investigation of the incident, including the actions of the Lightfoot administration handling of the aftermath of the raid. That report has been completed but not been released publicly. WTTW reported that Lightfoot rejected the report, saying “I don’t think that report is complete.”
Separately, Lightfoot appointed former federal judge Ann Claire Williams to investigate. That report has not been released.
The Police Department has reformed its search warrant policy in the wake of the raid, but Young, some alderpeople and community activists have pushed the department to go further. The “Anjanette Young Ordinance,” which would codify search warrant reforms in the city’s municipal code, has not been called for a vote before City Council.