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Man sentenced for hate crime in live-streamed beating of mentally disabled teen

CHICAGO -- A Chicago-area man who was the alleged ringleader in the beating of a mentally disabled teenager that was livestreamed on Facebook has pleaded guilty to a hate crime and sentenced to eight years in prison. The Chicago Tribune reports 20-year-old Jordan Hill of Carpentersville became the third of the four defendants to admit taking part in the attack; he entered the plea in a Cook County courtroom Thursday. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping.

The January 2017 incident received national attention because it involved a white victim and four African-Americans who taunted the bound-and-gagged teen with profanities against white people. The video drew widespread condemnation, including from then-President Barack Obama, who called the crime "despicable."

After announcing the sentence Thursday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Judge William Hooks Hooks directed Hill, 20, to look at paintings and photographs of civil rights leaders hanging on the walls of his courtroom. Hooks reportedly shook his head when Hill was unable to identify Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells.

"A lot of things you think you know, you don't know," Hooks reportedly told Hill. "Every time you take an act like this ... terrible act on this young man who could not defend himself, you spit on the graves of all of the people on these walls."

Prosecutors say Hill -- a classmate of the 18-year-old victim -- picked up the victim at a McDonald's on the eve of the 2017 new year in northwest suburban Streamwood, and drove him around for three days, reported CBS Chicago. Prosecutors said Hill grew angry after the victim's mother contacted him on Facebook to ask where her son was.

Hill allegedly took the victim to the apartment of sisters Brittany and Tanishia Covington on Chicago's west side, where police said a "play fight" between Hill and the victim escalated into beating and abuse.

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Brittany Covington, top left; Jordan Hill, bottom left;  Tesfaye Cooper, top right; Tanishia Covington, bottom right Chicago police

Brittany Covington narrated a Facebook Live video of Hill, her sister, and Tesfaye Cooper tormenting the victim, reports CBS Chicago. The video shows them slapping, punching, taunting and threatening to kill the victim.

Excerpts of the Facebook Live video show the victim with his mouth taped shut slumped in a corner as at least two assailants cut off his sweatshirt and others taunt him off camera. A red band also appears to be around the victim's hands.

The victim was peppered with cigarette ashes, and then his hair was cut with a knife until his scalp bled. A second video, which surfaced on Twitter, showed the suspects grabbing the teen's head, shoving it into a toilet, and forcing him to drink, reported CBS Chicago. The assailants forced him to say "F*** Donald Trump," "F*** white people," and "I love black people," police and prosecutors have said. They also allegedly demanded $300 ransom from the victim's mother.

Chicago police have said the teen was bound in a corner for about four or five hours. The victim was able to escape when the assailants left the apartment to confront a downstairs neighbor who had called police to complain about noise.

Chicago police said they found the victim wandering disoriented in a tank top and shorts in cold weather, bloody and "traumatized." 

Brittany and Tanishia Covington also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the case. Brittany Covington was sentenced to four years of probation last year. Tanishia Covington was sentenced to three years in prison at an April hearing, during which Hooks reportedly told her to apologize directly to the victim, who sat in court. The Sun-Times reports she cried as she apologized, and the victim whispered, "It's all right."

The case against Cooper is pending. Cooper's lawyer told the Sun-Times on Thursday that he was considering a plea deal.