CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Law Department attempted in court this week to block a local TV station from airing body camera footage of Chicago police officers raiding an innocent woman’s home and handcuffing her while she was naked.
The city also filed a request to have the woman, Anjanette Young, sanctioned for allegedly violating a confidentiality order.
Officials for Lightfoot made the extraordinary request to prevent WBBM-TV from airing a news report in an emergency court filing Monday evening, which a federal judge rejected. The courts long have ruled against efforts to prevent news companies from publishing reports, saying it’s an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
CBS, which has reported extensively on Chicago police officers raiding the wrong home, aired the interview with Young and body camera footage late Monday.
But before the report aired, Lightfoot lawyers wrote in a filing that Young received the video as part of her lawsuit against the city and released it to CBS despite a federal judge’s protective order.
Because of that, the mayor’s lawyers argued that Young should be sanctioned by the court.
Asked at an unrelated news conference Tuesday whether she supports sanctions against the woman, Lightfoot told reporters, “I can’t comment on that. A federal judge put rules in place. It’s for that judge to determine whether or not that was appropriate.”
The mayor also tried to put distance between herself and the incident, saying the raid took place before she was elected, even though the city kept the video secret under her administration.
Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously fought to keep secret a video showing white police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times, but a county judge ordered his administration to release the video. He has since been dogged by accusations that he covered up the scandal to preserve his 2015 reelection campaign, an allegation he has denied.
Chicago has since instituted a rule allowing the release of police shooting videos and audio within 60 days, but footage from other incidents such as the raid on Young’s home can be kept secret for months or even years.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, criticized the city for its handling of the situation. He said Young first filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking copies of the footage in November 2019.
Chicago police initially asked for a copy of her driver’s license, before denying the woman’s request, saying the matter remains under investigation. Saulter said he believes the city’s motivation was more about keeping an embarrassing incident secret.
“This city has a history of attempting to cover up unfavorable video,” Saulter said. “That’s all we’re dealing with here.”
Saulter said the city “should focus a lot more on the conduct of its officers than trying to cover up the evidence of poor policing” and criticized officials for cherry-picking which videos it releases and which it withholds.
“The problem in this instance, in my opinion, is when the city decides that a body camera or dash camera video supports their narrative, they release it, sometimes immediately, and certainly it’s not a prohibition to release it then because something is still under investigation,” Saulter said.
In the city’s court filing seeking to prevent the footage from being aired, Lightfoot’s lawyers said they objected to providing Young with a copy of the recordings on the raid at her home because they believed it “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.”
The mayor’s lawyers said they were concerned it “would be shared with the media in a salacious and unfair manner designed to elicit a reactionary response, which carries the risk of poisoning the public’s view of the case.”
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