Judge asks whether public defender's office should represent all 4 in Facebook torture case

  • Clockwise from upper left, Brittany Covington, 19, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Jordan Hill, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and a hate crime.

    Clockwise from upper left, Brittany Covington, 19, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Jordan Hill, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and a hate crime. Chicago Police Department

 
 
Updated 3/1/2017 9:24 PM

The judge presiding over the case of four people charged with kidnapping and attacking a Crystal Lake teen ordered assistant public defenders on Wednesday to review whether it's a conflict of interest for them to represent all four.

The Cook County public defender's office represents Jordan Hill, 18, who was reportedly a friend of the victim; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; Brittany Covington, 19; and her sister Tanishia Covington, 24, all of Chicago. They were arrested in January and charged with aggravated kidnapping, unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and a hate crime in the attack of the 18-year-old victim.

 

All four have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail.

Acknowledging that the defendants might not have participated equally in the assault, which was streamed live on Facebook, Judge William H. Hooks suggested conflicts might surface as the case progresses.

Hooks said "there are dangers with respect to (the public defender's office) even representing two defendants."

Public Defender Amy Campanelli said if any conflicts exist among the defendants, her office will file a motion to withdraw.

In a separate matter, Assistant Public Defender Neil Toppel asked Hooks to set a hearing to review bond for his client, Brittany Covington. So far, none of the other defense attorneys have made bond review requests.

Prosecutors say the defendants bound and gagged the victim, then slapped, punched, taunted and threatened to kill him during the attack, which unfolded between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2. They say the defendants cut the young man's scalp, ordered him to drink toilet water and forced him to utter racial epithets.

All four defendants return to court March 13.

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