A judge is allowing two of four people charged in the videotaped beating of a mentally disabled man to be represented by private attorneys.
The Cook County public defender’s office had requested that the office not be assigned to all four because doing so could pose a conflict of interest. On Monday, Judge William H. Hooks appointed private attorneys for 18-year-old Tesfaye Cooper and 19-year-old Brittany Covington.
The state’s attorney’s office said the judge has yet to decide who will represent 18-year-old Jordan Hill, and that 24-year-old Tanishia Covington will be represented by the public defender’s office.
The four have pleaded not guilty to hate crime and kidnapping charges, after a video surfaced on Facebook Live in early January of a schizophrenic white man being held captive in an apartment in the 3400 block of West Lexington on West Side. The video shows four people forcing him to drink toilet water and cutting his scalp with a knife while making him proclaim, “I love black people.”
While the man was being tortured during the several-hour ordeal, one of his tormentors allegedly said on video: “I don’t give a f— if he is schizophrenic.” Someone in the apartment also said, “F— Trump” and “F— white people” and Hill, a classmate of the victim, called up the man’s mother and asked for $300 ransom for his safe return, prosecutors said at a bond hearing in January.
The attack drew outrage across the city and the country, even prompting a response from then-President Barack Obama.
In January, Amy Campanelli, the Cook County public defender, criticized pretrial news coverage of the case.
“It is sad and unfortunate that many have commented on these young men and women without knowing all the facts,” Campanelli said then. “Sensationalized, pervasive media coverage threatens to poison the jury pool for my clients. They’ve already been denounced in the media before anything has been proven, and now additional attention is being given, trying them in public before they have their day in court.”
Contributing: Associated Press