By Samah Assad, Dave Savini, Michele Youngerman, and Todd Feurer
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Aldermen on Monday overwhelmingly backed a $2.9 million settlement with Anjanette Young, the innocent social worker who was handcuffed naked during a wrongful police raid nearly three years ago.
The City Council Finance Committee on Monday unanimously approved the proposed settlement, sending it to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday.
Young's lawsuit accused the officers who raided their home of "willful and wanton" conduct, when they barged into her home based on bad information from a confidential informant who claimed a man with an illegal gun lived there. In fact, Young lived alone, and had no gun, and was naked when officers stormed in and handcuffed her.
Young spoke to CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini about how this month is an exceptionally hard month for her to deal with. The settlement agreement comes nearly a year after CBS 2 aired the damning body camera video of Anjanette Young with her permission. It revealed how, in February of 2019, a dozen male Chicago Police officers burst into Young's home with guns drawn and handcuffed her while she was naked.
"My life has really been an emotional roller coaster since that time. You know, the incident itself was challenging, all the work that you guys put in," she said. "It gets emotional for me during the holidays, but December is now another, you know, anniversary month that has me heavy in my emotions as it relates to this incident, and in thinking about everything that happened last year December. So it does get a little challenging."
As she stood unclothed, surrounded by officers, inside her home in February 2019, she told them they were in the wrong place dozens of times and begged them to let her get dressed. For minutes, officers failed to fully cover her body.
"I can just remember crying and yelling, 'Please let me put my clothes on…you have the wrong place," Young said in a previous interview. "I can see it all over again…I can see them walking around my house and feeling like, feeling humiliated."
Moment after moment, the video echoed what Young described happened to her in an initial interview to CBS 2 just months after the raid. Except at that time, the city had not yet released the video.
Chicago Corporation Counsel Celia Meza told aldermen the $2.9 million agreement with Young "is a fair and just settlement" for Young and the city.
Meza said, if the case were to go to trial, there would be no dispute that Young was left completely naked for 16 seconds before police draped a jacket over her. Meza said it was another 13 seconds before police draped a blanket over her, but nearly 10 minutes before she was allowed to go to a bedroom and get fully dressed.
Video shows that, during the time between when police put a blanket on her and when she was allowed to get dressed, the blanket repeatedly slid open and exposed her body in front of officers. One video clip shows an officer stood in front of Young but made no attempt to cover her. Another officer walked over and held the blanket closed.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday afternoon that she was "comfortable" with the settlement agreement.
"But importantly my understanding is Ms. Young and her counsel also are comfortable with it, and it'll go to the City Council floor on Wednesday," she said. "We all saw that horrific video. We all saw the way in which she was treated, and I've made extensive comments about it, from the time that I saw it and into the early part of this year. I think it's a good thing that this matter is resolved. Obviously, assuming City Council approval, this will provide her I think with a substantial amount of resources, and I think that's a good thing. It's a good thing for our city. We need to heal from this and move forward."
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) who frequently votes against settlements in lawsuits accusing police of misconduct, said while he understands Young has agreed to the $2.9 million settlement, he believes that payment is insufficient for what she went through, noting the city initially offered her "zero dollars" to settle the case at one point.
"To be at less than $3 (million), while good for taxpayers, in my opinion I don't think necessarily does justice for Ms. Young," he said. "My heart of hearts tells me that this is insufficient."
Lopez also blasted the city's handling of the aftermath from the wrong raid on Young's home, apparently referring not only to the city's efforts to block CBS 2 from airing the story last year, but also the city's request that a judge sanction Saulter, for violating a previous confidentiality protective order that was in place with the city as part of Young's federal lawsuit.
"I believe that we owed her more for the horrible way in which she was treated that day, and in the revictimization by this administration in constantly going after her, when she did nothing wrong but being in her own home," Lopez added.
Amid fallout and backlash for how city officials handled the case, Lightfoot personally wrote to federal Judge John Tharp Jr. in January, asking he drop the city's initial request for sanctions again Saulter, and the judge later agreed.
Meza said the city's Law Department decided to settle Young's case, rather than risk going to trial, in part because of the Civilian Officer of Police Accountability report on the raid in November, which found that officers failed to properly "knock and announce" before entering Young's home, to give her time to get dressed and answer the door before police barged in. The report also found some officers failed to activate their body cameras as required. COPA recommended termination or suspension for multiple officers for their role in the botched raid – a first sign of potential discipline and accountability within CPD.
"Their findings and recommendations which, were released to the public in November would make it a little more difficult for the city to defend this case," Meza said.
Meantime, Meza also pointed to the precedent of the city settling another wrong raid case for $2.5 million -- the botched CPD raid of Davianna Simmons' home in 2013, when officers pointed guns at the 3-year-old girl inside her family's home. She now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2018, the City Council agreed to a $2.5 million settlement to resolve the lawsuit filed by Simmons' family.
Meza told aldermen that taking Young's case to trial would have risked a much larger verdict against the city -- potentially as much as $13 million to $16 million in damages -- based on how long it took before Young was allowed to get fully dressed.
"In this case, of course, we have the indignities that Ms. Young suffered, in the fact that she was in a state of undress," she said. "If we were to proceed to trial, a sufficiently outraged jury could award millions of dollars, even if there were a determination -- and in this instance, there would not be -- that the police did not violate the constitution, or any law in obtaining and executing the search warrant."
The COPA investigation was one of multiple probes into how the raid on Young's home was handled by police. The Chicago Inspector General's Office completed its investigation into the raid and how the city, including Lightfoot, handled the fallout. The findings were sent to Lightfoot's office and have not yet been released.
Lightfoot has repeatedly refused to commit to releasing the full Inspector General's report on the Anjanette Young case. WTTW has reported that Lightfoot last month rejected that report as incomplete, and has called on that office to investigate its own handling of the probe.
"We've raised a number of questions. The departments involved have not had an opportunity to respond yet, and we'll move forward, but we're going to follow the law," Lightfoot said Monday.
A summary of that report is expected to be released early next year as part of the Inspector General's next quarterly report.
While Young was willing to finally put the lawsuit behind her, she said more systemic improvements need to done to stop these wrong raids, and put an end to sloppy search warrants. She also said there needs to be more transparency regarding her case, including the release of an Inspector General's report on the raid and its aftermath.
"They absolutely need to release thid report," Young said.
She said Lightfoot needs to make that IG report public.
"So the mayor holding the IG report, and then you know, making a statement that she'll give a summary in January; well, that's not fair. The IG report is supposed to be an independent investigation, and so why does she get to control If I see it or if the public see it? It shouldn't be that way," she said.
Lightfoot also asked a former federal judge with the law firm Jones Day to conduct an outside investigation, which is ongoing. The mayor said she does not know when that report will be completed.
"It's an independent report. So I don't dictate the time and place and manner in which Jones Day is going to release findings and recommendations, but I expect that to come soon," she said.
The December 2020 airing of the video of the wrong raid of Young's home – and the city's attempts to keep it hidden –sparked public outcry. Lightfoot's law office tried to go to federal court to stop CBS 2 from airing the story, but CBS 2 aired it anyway. Young's story sent shockwaves across the country and spurred a hashtag in her name.
"Seeing it makes it real," Young said when she watched the video. "Seeing it validates that I didn't make this story up. Seeing validates my memory."
Using that body camera video and police and court records, CBS 2 pieced together – moment by moment – not only how Young was treated during the raid, but also how police failed to check the bad tip that led them there. The suspect they were looking for, who had no connection to Young, was on electronic monitoring next door at the at the time of the raid, CBS 2 found.
As the images went viral, nationwide criticism forced officials, notably Mayor Lori Lightfoot, to publicly acknowledge and apologize for Young's mistreatment at the hands of the officers involved.
Months later, Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown pushed through key reforms in CPD's search warrant policy. That was also more than two years after CBS 2's reporting on wrong raids began, which found Young's case fits a troubling pattern of bad raids on innocent families in Chicago.
In March, and then again in June, Young and her attorney, Keenan Saulter, said the city was dragging its feet on the case despite Lightfoot's public promises to quickly resolve it.
Saulter said in a March interview the city, at that time, had offered Young "zero dollars to resolve this case, still." Lightfoot was also previously criticized for publicly apologizing for what happened to Young, while her law department attempted to dismiss the case in court. City representatives, however, said they had made efforts to settle and that Lightfoot was committed to resolving the case quickly so Young "can continue her process of healing and moving forward."
As Young's lawsuit nears a final resolution at Wednesday's meeting of the full City Council, the city continues to litigate several other lawsuits filed by families who were also wrongly raided by CPD officers. This includes the family of Peter Mendez, who was 9 when police raided his home and pointed guns at him in 2017.
"It's very disheartening" that multiple families who filed lawsuits have not had resolutions in their cases, Young said in a recent interview with CBS 2, prior to the settlement agreement.
"I stand on their shoulders," Young said. "…And it's just not fair. But it's also why each time that I ever speak in any public forum, I'm mentioning those other families because they mean that much to me."
With unanimous approval of the settlement by the Finance Committee, it's all but certain the full City Council will back the deal on Wednesday.
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