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Chicago Mayor Criticized After City Lawyers Try to Suppress Video of Botched Police Raid

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Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was under fire after it was revealed that city lawyers attempted to block the video release of a botched police raid caught on an officer’s body camera.

What We Know:

  • Anjanette Young, a social worker, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) last year requesting to show the public the body cam video exposing a botched raid of her home. Local TV station CBS Chicago also requested the video separately as part of a series on police raids, but the Chicago Police Department rejected both requests. A federal judge eventually forced CPD to turn over the footage as a part of Young’s lawsuit against the police department.
  • On February 21, 2019, authorities broke down the door to Young’s townhome as she was getting ready for bed. Young had just gotten undressed when she heard what she described as loud slams. She said she grabbed the closest jacket to conceal her body and ran to the door.

“Before I knew it, there was a swarm of police officers,” Young said. “They had these big guns, long guns with scopes and lights… I thought they were going to shoot me.”

  • The police were given a vague tip, but according to CBS 2, they did not conduct enough research to verify it. Through a brief search of public information, the news station found the suspect’s home was listed across the street from Young’s. Naked and handcuffed for over 40 minutes, she cried, yelling to police over and over again that they were in the wrong home. She said everything connected to the apartment was in her name, so had they done the appropriate research beforehand, she would never be telling this story.
  • A few hours before the footage was set to be released, CBS Chicago obtained it as part of an investigative report. In an effort to block the video’s release, city lawyers filed a last-minute emergency motion in federal court. Despite the city’s attempts, CBS went ahead with the report, and as it was being broadcasted, a judge denied the motion.

  • In a statement made last Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said:

“Today, I became aware of an incident involving Ms. Anjanette Young from February 2019, before I became Mayor, and I saw a video today for the first time. I had no knowledge of either until today. I had a very emotional reaction to what was depicted on the video as I imagine that many people did.”

  • Lightfoot claims she found out city lawyers tried to block the video from media reports and would not have allowed them to try to stop the story had she known. “This is not how we operate,” she said. Community activist, Ja’Mal Green dismissed the mayor’s claims. “How are you suppressing videos and the mayor don’t know about it? She has to be held accountable,” Green disputed. 
  • When asked what she would say to Mayor Lightfoot, Young said, “I was there when you came to my church, and I voted for you. I told people to vote for you. I believed in you as a black woman running for mayor.“ Young continued, “I want you to come back…tell the people in my church and me how you’re going to fix this. It’s not OK.”
  • During an online City Council meeting, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) called out Lightfoot saying, “I hold you accountable, Mayor, to have a hearing on the matter … because the public deserves an explanation for what happened and why the Law Department was trying to sue the plaintiff because she was trying to make this public, as was her right.”
  • Lightfoot is the first Black woman and the first openly gay person to be Chicago Mayor. When elected, Chicago voters put faith in her to execute her plans promoted throughout her campaign to reconstruct CPD, positioning herself as the resolution to her predecessor Rahm Emmanuel who delayed footage of a white officer shooting a black teen in 2015.

Mayor Lightfoot asked Young’s lawyers to set up a meeting between the two of them.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Crime

New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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Crime

R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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