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Four accused in Facebook Live torture case plead not guilty

Brittany Covington, of Chicago; (clockwise from upper left) Tesfaye Cooper, of Chicago; Jordan Hill, of Carpentersville; and Tanishia Covington, of Chicago. | Chicago Police

The four people charged in the Facebook Live attack that drew outrage across the city and country pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Friday before Cook County Judge William Hooks.

All the defendants’ assistant public defenders entered the pleas on behalf of their clients. Their next court date will be March 1.

Tanishia Covington, 24, Brittany Covington, 18, Jordan Hill, 18, and Tesfaye Cooper, 18, are accused of holding a schizophrenic white man captive in a West Side apartment last month, 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.

Priscilla Covington, grandmother of Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, leaves court after their arraignment Friday. | Rummana Hussain/Sun-Times
Priscilla Covington, grandmother of Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, leaves court after their arraignment Friday. | Rummana Hussain/Sun-Times

The attack drew outrage across the city and the country, even prompting a response from then-President Barack Obama.

Last month, 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.”

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