Lightfoot cleared of ‘purposeful concealment’ in law firm’s investigation of city’s response to botched police raid

Lightfoot
The botched raid of Anjanette Young’s home has set off a political firestorm for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Lightfoot
The botched raid of Anjanette Young’s home has set off a political firestorm for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Lightfoot cleared of ‘purposeful concealment’ in law firm’s investigation of city’s response to botched police raid

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not conceal information related to the wrongful police raid of Anjanette Young, according to a law firm’s investigation into the matter that was released Thursday.

The investigation, led by the private law firm of Jones Day and retired federal judge Ann Claire Williams, was initiated by Lightfoot after details of the raid were made public. It centered on the city’s controversial response to the raid, and not the incident itself.

Police raided Young’s home on a bad tip in 2019 when she was getting ready for bed, and naked, at the time. A team of mostly male officers handcuffed Young and did not allow her to get dressed for 10 minutes as they searched. The raid and its aftermath has created a political firestorm for Lightfoot, whose administration attempted to suppress the video of the incident.

The city denied open-records requests for the footage and sought a federal judge’s order to stop CBS 2 Chicago from airing it. The city also refused to provide the video to Young herself, citing an ongoing police misconduct investigation, until it was court-ordered to do so. When Young shared that video with CBS 2, the city initially sought a sanction against her, though the law department later dropped that request.

Lightfoot also claimed in a news conference she was not aware of the incident until the day after a CBS 2 broadcast that showed the video. But internal emails showed she had learned about the raid more than a year earlier and ordered a phone meeting with staffers about it. She later admitted she had been notified of the video’s existence but said she had forgotten.

The Jones Day investigation sought to answer key questions surrounding the aftermath of the raid, including why it took so long to provide footage of the incident, why the city pursued sanctions against Young, and why Lightfoot said she wasn’t aware of the incident more than a year after she was informed of it.

The report largely clears Lightfoot and the city of any intentional, malicious actions to conceal the video or cause further harm to Young. It also concludes that the mayor’s comments that she was not aware of the incident was due to the fact that she forgot, and her staff did not fact check statements she made to the media.

“Our review found no evidence that the Mayor or any current of former City employee took action with malicious intent to add to Ms. Young’s mistreatment or otherwise harm her in connection with the City’s response to the botched search of her home,” an executive summary of the report reads.

But the report also found “failures of oversight and accountability” within four city of Chicago departments among “certain employees” — including a failure to “adequately consider Ms. Young’s dignity in the course of its actions or prioritize egregious misconduct for fast-track review.”

The review makes recommendations for four city departments involved – the Mayor’s Office, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the Police Department and the Department of Law.

Some of the 13 recommendations for the mayor’s office include: “review body-worn camera footage before public release”; “formally adopt a process around viewing and escalating high-risk and urgent videos”; “formally adopt strategy and process to fact-check key public statements by the Mayor prior to release”; and “adjust ‘Tone at the Top’ to encourage staff to discuss tough issues that arise on a regular basis.”

In a statement Thursday, Lightfoot said she looks forward to reviewing the full report.

“As I previously stated, the results of this investigation would be made public, and I am making good on that commitment,” she said.

But Lightfoot has refused to commit to releasing a 163-page report into the city’s handling of the botched raid submitted by former Inspector General Joe Ferguson on his last day in the position, Oct. 15.Ferguson has criticized the Jones Day investigation. He said his office was cut off, “under a claimed cloak of attorney-client privilege,” from all of that inquiry’s evidence.

That lack of access prevented Ferguson’s office from making disciplinary recommendations, he said.

“We don’t loft conclusions, knowing that there is evidence that we have been barred from seeing,” Ferguson said.

The Jones Day investigation did not seek to address disciplinary recommendations.

In response to a question about why Chicagoans should have confidence in the Jones Day report, initiated by Lightfoot, that cleared her and her employees of intentional malice, Williams defended the independence of her firm and attorneys.

“When you look at the composition of our team, when you look at the long record I’ve had in public service … we did a thorough and complete search,” Williams said. “There is no way I would stand up before you if I wasn’t confident about what we did.”

Williams then gave a rundown of the investigation’s methodology: the team included more than 40 attorneys who spent 9,000 hours of “pro bono legal services” reviewing more than 250,000 city documents. The team interviewed more than 40 current or former employees.

Williams said Jones Day did not interview Young or her attorney for the investigation, because there would be “no real purpose” since the investigation focused on the handling of the case and not the raid itself.

Earlier this week, the Chicago City Council approved a $2.9 million settlement for Young, who continues to push for further disciplinary action for the 14 officers involved in the raid.

In a separate report earlier this year, the office that investigates police misconduct – the Civilian Office of Police Accountability – blamed the wrongful raid on poor policy, training and supervision. Investigators concluded the officer who got the warrant to search Young’s home repeatedly ignored evidence indicating he had the wrong address.

The agency has recommended lengthy suspensions or termination for the officer and the two sergeants, as well as shorter suspensions for another four officers. Police Superintendent David Brown has so far moved to fire just one sergeant involved.

Mariah Woelfel covers Chicago city government at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter @MariahWoelfel.