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Lightfoot Sidesteps Questions About Why City Lawyers Tried to Keep Disturbing Body Camera Video Secret

By Samah Assad, Michele Youngerman, Dave Savini

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot sidestepped questions Tuesday about why city lawyers tried, in a rare and unprecedented attempt, to block a CBS 2 story from airing disturbing video that shows how police treated an innocent woman during a bad raid.

Anjanette Young, a social worker, was naked and handcuffed when Chicago Police officers broke down her door and burst into her home on Feb. 21, 2019. CBS 2 first interviewed Young last November.

Young said she wanted the body camera video to show the public what happened to her that day. But when she filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the video last year, the police department denied it. The department also denied a similar FOIA request by CBS 2.

"I feel like they didn't want us to have this video because they knew how bad it was," Young said. "They knew they had done something wrong. They knew that the way they treated me was not right."

Ultimately, a federal court forced CPD to turn over the video as part of her lawsuit against police.

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CBS 2 obtained the video, and hours before it aired as part of an investigative report Monday at 10 p.m., city lawyers filed an emergency motion in federal court in a last-minute attempt to stop the story. CBS 2 went with the story and, while the report was being broadcast, a judge denied the city's motion.

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When Chicago Tribune Reporter Gregory Pratt asked Lightfoot at a news conference Tuesday why her administration went to court to kill the story, Lightfoot evaded answering the question directly.

"That raid actually took place in February of [2019], even before the first of two elections was decided, so that was not something that happened on my watch," said Lightfoot, referring to her successful mayoral primary (five days after the raid) and runoff election on April 2.

However, Lightfoot was in office when CPD denied requests for the video by Young and CBS 2.

Instead of addressing the city's unsuccessful attempts to block CBS 2 from airing the footage, she pointed to changes the police department made to its search warrant policy in January 2020, including mandatory pre-checks and two supervisors required to be on the raid teams. The changes came after nearly two years of CBS 2's extensive reporting on CPD wrong raids.

But CBS 2's reporting found the police department has failed to take sufficient measures to stop officers from raiding the wrong homes and hold them accountable when they do. CBS 2 documented two wrong raids that happened even after the police department changed its policy. Like in Young's case, officers acted on bad tips without checking to see if the addresses they were given were correct.

"And I am not going to sit here and tell you that we've solved every problem, but we responded to what we were seeing was way too many circumstances of officers going into the wrong home," Lightfoot said.

"And I watched that video and I put myself in that poor woman's place," Lightfoot said about Young.  "And thinking about somebody breaking into your home, you have no idea who they are, in the middle of the night and with a child, and the trauma that that causes. So, I think we have taken steps to address that issue."

In its emergency motion, city attorneys wrote a confidential agreement was violated by Young and her attorney when CBS 2 obtained the video.

The attorneys asked a judge to order CBS "…remove any and all postings that contain this confidential video, because it violates the Court's order" and even asked for sanctions against Young.

CBS 2's attorneys argued the city's request was a clear case of prior restraint and an attempt to suppress the story.

In their opposing brief, CBS 2 argued the city's request was "one of the most extraordinary forms of relief known in our jurisprudence – a prior restraint on a news report about a matter of public concern."

They also said CBS is not a party to the confidential order connected to Young's lawsuit, and it is the news station's First Amendment right to air the footage.

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This isn't the first time CPD attempted to shield body camera video from public view. Last year, police denied CBS 2's FOIA request for video that would show how officers handcuffed 8-year-old Royal Wilson during a bad raid. The department said it would be "unduly burdensome" for police to collect, review and redact 16 hours of video.

"It's burdensome because it's something to hide, and because it's something [police] don't want to be exposed," Royal's mother, Domonique Wilson, told CBS 2. "I have every right to see those videos."

CPD released the video a day after that story.

The Wilson family and Young are among dozens of families who told CBS 2 they were traumatized when CPD wrongly raided their homes.

In an interview about the body camera video, Young said she was humiliated during the raid. Police searched the wrong home while she stood there naked and handcuffed – even after she told them they were in the wrong place dozens of times.

Police also failed at first to properly cover her naked body when they tried to wrap a short coat around her. They then covered her with a blanket but would not allow her to get dressed for 13 minutes. She was handcuffed for 20 minutes.

"I mean, I felt so violated," Young said. "Here is this man who is walking up to me and putting me in handcuffs, and I have no clothes on. And I'm just standing there terrified, humiliated, and not even understanding why in that moment this is happening to me."

Lightfoot also didn't answer why the city pushed for a federal judge to sanction Young -- more than a year after she attempted to get the video through a FOIA request – and instead cited the confidentiality agreement regarding the video. "There's allegations she violated that," Lightfoot said.

Last year, Young shared her story with CBS 2 despite CPD's refusal to turn over the video through FOIA at that time. Without the video, she explained how police treated her.

The city's motion to stop CBS 2 claimed the previous report was "highly inaccurate and misleading" and CBS 2's obtaining the video "was an attempt to provide the media with the body worn camera to paint an inaccurate picture of what happened during the subject search warrant."

But using the body camera video, CBS 2 pieced together every moment of the raid, which confirmed Young's story.

"Seeing it makes it real," Young said. "Seeing it validates that I didn't make this story up. Seeing validates my memory."

Late Tuesday evening, both Mayor Lightfoot and the city Department of Law issued statements with regard to the Young case. The statements came after the mayor and the city withstood scathing comments all day about the story on their social media accounts and after the story was picked up nationally.

This is Mayor Lightfoot's statement:

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The Law Department's statement is as follows:

"At the request of the plaintiff's lawyer, a federal judge authorized the disclosure of the body-worn camera early in litigation only to the plaintiff with the requirement that it be subject to a confidentiality agreement under which neither party could publicly disclose it.

"The plaintiff's counsel received a copy of the body-worn camera on February 20, 2020, pursuant and subject to the court's order. On March 9, 2020, plaintiff's counsel voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit. The protective order, however, remained in full force and effect even after the litigation ended.

"As Officers of the Court, the Law Department felt that it had an obligation to bring to the Judge's attention the apparent violation of his order. The judge has said he will set a hearing shortly on the issue regarding the lawyer's alleged conduct."

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