The Chicago police officer reportedly at the center of the drinking-and-driving scandal that got former police Superintendent Eddie Johnson fired is now suing Johnson and the city, saying the former superintendent repeatedly raped her in his office at CPD headquarters.
Officer Cynthia Donald filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in Cook County court. It says Johnson used his position as the leader of the police department, and as Donald’s direct supervisor, to harass Donald and pressure her into sex.
“Superintendent Johnson, while serving as Plaintiff’s superior and direct supervisor, engaged in shockingly violent, abusive, and harassing conduct towards Plaintiff,” the lawsuit reads.
Donald claims that Johnson forced her to have oral and vaginal sex, sent her photos of his penis and called her demeaning and derogatory names in front of other city employees.
“Eddie Johnson repeatedly abused and harassed me, and made it clear that I had to follow his orders, which included engaging in unwanted sexual activity with him, in order to keep my job,” Donald said at a press conference Thursday.
Johnson’s attorney, Thomas Needham, said Johnson denies Donald’s allegations.
“[Johnson] assures me that the allegations against him are completely false, and he adamantly denies that he engaged in any kind of sexual misconduct or abuse of Cynthia Donald,” Needham said. “He looks forward to a court case where he can establish that and regain his reputation.”
Donald said she was coming forward in the hopes that it would encourage other female CPD officers who were victims of abuse and harassment to tell their stories.
“I am calling on Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot and Superintendent David Brown to address the long-standing problem of sexual misconduct within CPD, and the boys club culture that enables abusers and promotes a code of silence,” Donald said.
Donald never made a criminal complaint about the alleged sexual assault and harassment, nor did she report the alleged abuse to CPD’s internal affairs.
Her attorney, Robert McLaughin said that’s because Donald’s abuser was the highest-ranking officer in Chicago and she was afraid of retaliation.
“This is a boss with a badge and a gun. Someone that, Cynthia, certainly did not feel comfortable outing to anybody within CPD or anybody in the mayor’s office,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said that on the night Johnson was found asleep in his car, the then-superintendent “ordered” Donald to come out with him to a bar downtown, and she did. The Chicago Sun-Times previously reported that Donald and Johnson were seen on video kissing at the downtown bar.
At around 10:30 that night, Johnson drove them both back to CPD headquarters, and then Donald drove herself home, according to McLaughlin and an inspector general’s investigation.
Hours later, someone called 911 to report Johnson asleep behind the wheel of a city-issued SUV, which ultimately led to Johnson’s firing.
As previously reported by WBEZ, after the scandal broke, Donald was transferred out of the superintendent’s security detail. Donald’s lawsuit claims this transfer “exacerbated” the hostile work environment created by Johnson, who conditioned “her employment and advancements within CPD upon her submission to unwanted and unwelcomed sexual activity.”
At Thursday’s press conference, McLaughlin said Donald considered the reassignment a demotion and punishment.
McLaughlin said Johnson’s drinking-and-driving scandal gave Lightfoot and the city an opportunity to investigate Johnson’s sexual harassment. But instead, according to the lawsuit, Donald was removed from Johnson’s security detail and moved away from CPD headquarters.
Law Department spokesperson Kathleen Fieweger said they were aware of the lawsuit but could not comment on the specific allegations, but she said if the allegations are true it would be “inexcusable.”
“Mayor Lightfoot emphatically denies, and common sense dictates, that Eddie Johnson ever told the Mayor about allegations of abuse or harassment of Cynthia Donald by Eddie Johnson,” Fieweger said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes just days before the expected release of more information from the inspector general’s investigation into the actions of officers who responded to Johnson asleep behind the wheel. It has been reported that Donald is one of the officers expected to be disciplined for her role in the scandal.
McLaughlin said they are unaware of any pending discipline against their client.