Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was deposed Thursday afternoon in the wrongful death lawsuits of Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier, the two people fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer in December 2015.
Johnson’s videotaped testimony was closed to the public, but at a court hearing earlier this week, attorneys for both sides agreed that questions for him would be limited to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s investigation of the shooting.
Last year, COPA concluded that Officer Robert Rialmo was not justified in shooting LeGrier and Jones, and the agency recommended the officer — who has been assigned to desk duty since the shooting — be fired.
Johnson had 90 days, until March 22, to decide whether or not to submit Rialmo’s name for termination to the Chicago Police Board, the body that doles out police discipline.
Johnson was not yet superintendent when the shooting occurred.
However, Johnson requested and was granted a 30-day extension of time from COPA, according to the agency and Chicago Police.
As he was leaving the Daley Center through an exit not open to the general public Thursday afternoon, Johnson did not respond when a Chicago Sun-Times reporter asked why he sought the extension.
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said Johnson did not respond to questions because of the testimony’s protective order that was put in place by Judge James O’Hara.
Attorneys for the Jones and LeGrier estates also declined to discuss Johnson’s deposition, citing the same protective order.
It’s unclear how thorough Johnson’s testimony could have been, given that he has questioned the investigatory methods used by COPA — the police discipline body that succeeded the Independent Police Review Authority.
Earlier this year, Johnson accused COPA of withholding information he needs to decide whether to concur with COPA’s recommendation.
The rare behind-the-scenes dispute over investigative files is aired in Johnson’s Jan. 11 letter to COPA’s interim chief administrator, Patricia Banks.
Johnson has a 60-day window in which to decide whether he will recommend that the Police Board fire Rialmo — but in the letter, he makes it clear that he won’t start the clock until COPA comes clean with the “entire file and relevant evidence” in the case.
“Despite the fact that COPA informed the media of its final opinion, CPD has not received the entire file. I am requesting that COPA confirm that CPD has everything that COPA consulted or relied upon in rendering its opinion in this matter and ask that COPA provide every document that is relevant to this investigation, including but not limited to exhibits, witness interviews, videos and expert reports,” Johnson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Sun-Times.
“It is only upon receipts of those materials that COPA will have complied with the ordinance and it is only then that CPD can complete a full review of this investigation.”
The spat stems from COPA’s use of an outside consultant brought in to review the case.
On Dec. 22, 2017, COPA’s deputy chief administrator, Andrea Kersten, submitted the agency’s recommendations to Johnson. In the weeks since, COPA’s findings have faced increasing scrutiny as it was disclosed that the agency retained an outside expert — Boston Police Lt. Robert Harrington — to review the case.
Harrington was paid more than $17,000 for his work through the law firm of McGuire Woods LLP. COPA has maintained that any work done by Harrington was not a factor in the agency’s determination.
Mia Sissac, a spokeswoman for COPA, told the Sun-Times on Wednesday, “The Superintendent has been supplied everything that he requested immediately.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to be deposed in O’Hara’s courtroom on March 29. Those questions will be limited to COPA, the mayor’s conversations with the Jones and LeGrier families, as well as his prior statements on the CPD’s “code of silence.”
That deposition will also be closed to the public, however it will be videotaped and admissible at trial.