A 20-year-old woman who has spent more than a year in the Cook County jail for offenses tied to her use of Facebook was freed Tuesday and is in the market for a flip-phone.
Brittany Covington, 20, spent 10 months in jail before reaching a plea deal and a probation-only sentence for her role in a 2016 hate crime case, in which she broadcast video of three friends abusing a white suburban man. Her four-year probation included a ban on using social media sites.
The video, streamed on Facebook Live, featured Covington prominently. The then 18-year-old provided occasional narration as co-defendants Jordan Hill and Tesfaye Cooper hit and taunted an 18-year-old Crystal Lake man who had been a classmate of Hill’s at a suburban alternative school.
The racialized taunting — Hill and Cooper demanded the victim say “I love black people” and “F-ck Trump” — coming just weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, became a viral media sensation.
In May, after six months in which she had landed a job and restarted her education, Covington said she loaned her phone to her boyfriend’s mother, who used it to get on Facebook. Software installed on her phone alerted probation officials, and Judge William Hooks sent Covington back to jail.
On Tuesday, Hooks said he did not believe her story about someone else using her phone, and seemed please to hear that she planned to switch to a device without internet access upon her release.
“The internet is not your friend,” Hooks said.
Hooks also reset the clock on Covington’s probation, meaning she will not be free of her social media ban or his supervision until 2022. Covington was getting rave reviews from her bosses at a bakery before her probation violation landed her in jail, and hopes to pursue a career in a culinary field, said her attorney, April Preyar.
Covington’s co-defendants all received prison sentences after pleading guilty to hate crime and kidnapping charges: Hill was sentenced to eight years; Cooper to six; and Covington’s sister, Tanishia, three.