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Judge dismisses former CPD officer's sexual harassment lawsuit against fired superintendent

Judge dismisses sexual harassment lawsuit against former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson
Judge dismisses sexual harassment lawsuit against former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson 00:22

CHICAGO (CBS)-- A judge has dismissed a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Chicago police officer against former Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Johnson was fired as superintendent in 2019 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused him of lying to her and the public about what happened the night he was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle in October 2019, following a night of drinking with a member of his security detail.

That officer, Cynthia Donald, sued Johnson in 2020. Donald, who was Johnson's personal driver, accused him of years of sexual abuse and harassment.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo ruled that Donald did not present sufficient evidence, and threw out her lawsuit.

"The basic problem with Donald's claim is that virtually all the evidence of her conduct suggests that she welcomed and was an active participant in her relationship with Johnson. The explanation that her friendly, welcoming behavior was an attempt to appease Johnson and make her life more bearable is unavailing because the relevant inquiry considers the objective nature of her conduct as it would appear to Johnson, not solely her subjective intent," Bucklo wrote.

Bucklo said both Donald and Johnson admit they began a sexual relationship in the summer of 2016, and it continued until at least late June 2018, but while Donald claimed Johnson's advances were unwelcome and that he harassed her, she also admitted she repeatedly told him she loved him, introduced him to her family, and shared intimate details of her personal life with him.

"The unfortunate reality is that relationships between supervisors and subordinates can be fraught," Bucklo wrote. "It may well be that Donald in fact did not want or enjoy her relationship with Johnson. The problem is one of proof: she has not come forward with evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in her favor."  

Donald's attorney, Robert McLaughlin, issued a statement saying "we are disappointed" with the ruling, and that they planned to appeal.

Johnson's attorney, Michael Leonard, said in a statement that Bucklo "clearly got it right."

"Mr. Johnson has always owned up to and acknowledged that he engaged in a consensual relationship with Ms. Donald," Leonard said. "The Court rightfully found that Ms. Donald's claims of sexual harassment were meritless under the circumstances presented — where Ms. Donald admitted in the litigation to engaging in acts, statements, and conduct that undeniably caused Mr. Johnson to reasonably believe that the parties were in fact engaged in a consensual relationship."

In October 2019, Johnson was found asleep behind the wheel of his SUV. He initially blamed a mix-up with his medication. Body camera footage from responding officers showed they allowed him to drive home without conducting field sobriety tests.

The city's inspector general later determined that, before the superintendent was found slumped over in his SUV, Johnson and another officer had been out drinking at a downtown bar, where "each consumed several large servings of rum."

Several officers later were suspended for their handling of the incident, and former Mayor Lightfoot fired Johnson just weeks after he had announced his planned retirement, accusing Johnson of lying to her and the public about the incident.

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