Judge: Trial possibly months away in Facebook livestreamed attack case
A woman accused in the attack a year ago on a Crystal Lake teen that was streamed live on Facebook came to court on Thursday prepared to enter a guilty plea, but the judge said he is "not ready for a plea" until at least one of her co-defendants' cases is resolved.
Tanisha Covington, 25, of Chicago and two men are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery, a hate crime and other charges in the attack on the teen, who authorities say suffers from schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder.
Cook County Judge William H. Hooks said either Jordan Hill, 19, formerly of Carpentersville, or Tesfaye Cooper, 19, a former Hoffman Estates High School student, must resolve their cases before he will accept a plea from Covington. Hooks said Covington had agreed to testify against her co-defendants.
Those cases might not be resolved quickly.
Following what he described as an "issues conference" with prosecutors and defense attorneys for Hill, the judge said, "it appears this case will go for a jury trial in the next two to three months."
Referring to the impact comments about the case from former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump might have on prospective jurors, Hooks indicated he would require a jury pool of between 200 and 300 people. Potential jurors would be required to complete a questionnaire agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys to help determine if "they can set the comments aside and give the defendant a fair trial," Hooks said.
Charges are still pending against Cooper, who next appears in court on Feb. 13. Hill next appears in court on Feb. 14 and Covington returns to court Feb. 20.
Prosecutors say the Crystal Lake teen was a friend of Hill's and met up with him on New Year's Eve 2016 at a Schaumburg fast-food restaurant. They were joined by Cooper, and the three spent a couple of days in Chicago. During that time, Hill called the teen's family and demanded a $300 ransom, prosecutors said.
The trio ended up at the West Side apartment where Covington and her sister, Brittany Covington, 19, lived. There, according to authorities, defendants punched, slapped and threatened the teen; cut a chunk of his hair and lacerated his scalp; and forced him to drink toilet water and make derogatory and racially tinged statements about Trump. The defendants are black and the teen is white. The attack was streamed live on Facebook, authorities say. Police found the teen outside after a 911 call from neighbors.
Brittany Covington, who faced the same charges as the others, pleaded guilty in December to a hate crime and aggravated battery with intent to disseminate on video. She was sentenced to four years probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and obtain her general equivalency diploma. She's also prohibited from contact with gang members and is banned from social media for four years.
Hooks indicated he will reconsider the defendants' bonds at their subsequent hearings in accordance with Chief Judge Timothy Evans' 2017 order requiring judges to set affordable bonds for defendants who do not "pose a real and present threat" to the community. The order is meant to ensure defendants do not remain in custody solely because they cannot make bail.