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City Council approves $2.9M settlement for Anjanette Young, victim of botched police raid

The settlement, about three times the offer Young rejected months ago, was unanimously approved Wednesday, nearly a year to the day after that shocking bodycam video was aired.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Wednesday morning, Dec. 15, 2021.
The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a $2.9 million settlement with Anjanette Young over a botched police raid of her home.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has acknowledged that “a lot of trust in me” has been “breached” by her Law Department’s efforts to conceal video of the botched February 2019 raid that forced Anjanette Young to stand naked and humiliated before a dozen male Chicago Police officers.

On Wednesday, nearly a year to the day after that shocking video was aired, what Lightfoot has called the “healing” process began for Young, the mayor and Chicago.

The City Council unanimously approved a $2.9 million settlement that’s nearly three times the amount Young and her attorneys rejected months ago.

Before the final vote, Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) commended Young for her “courage” and for “working so hard” to reform a broken process of executing search warrants. Hadden argued that the $2.9 million settlement would “hold up our end” in “admitting we were wrong and that the city did something wrong.”

“We need to fix the system and fix the policies so we don’t keep making the same mistakes,” Hadden said.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) attends the Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) at the Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) agreed, telling her colleagues, “Ms. Young wasn’t the first. And I pray to God she’s the last.”

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Taylor pointed out that Lightfoot’s City Council allies have refused to hold a hearing on an ordinance championed by African American female alderpersons that includes more sweeping search warrant reforms than the general order proposed by Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown.

“A lot of this, she’s inherited. But when it comes to reform, she has the ability and the duty to do something different and I just don’t see it. So, I don’t know how this heals her political career,” Taylor said of Lightfoot.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) argued even $2.9 million was too low for the “re-victimization that the city did to her over the last few months.”

In June, Lopez joined Taylor in using a parliamentary maneuver to delay Lightfoot’s appointment of Corporation Counsel Celia Meza to protest Meza’s decision to file a motion to dismiss Young’s lawsuit after the social worker refused to accept a $1 million settlement, which her attorneys branded a “low-ball” offer.

“We’ve given more money to families of gang members than we are to Ms. Young,” Lopez, one of Lightfoot’s most outspoken City Council critics, said Wednesday.

Although the settlement brings closure to Young, Lopez predicted that the political fallout for Lightfoot will continue.

“This is something that happened in a different administration. All she had to do is get out of the way and let the investigation run its course. But her instincts told her to keep this quiet. Her instincts failed her,” Lopez said.

“She forgets that she’s not working for a client trying to win a case for someone who hired her. She is the mayor of Chicago who needs to make sure the public has full faith and confidence in our government when we make mistakes. By hiring someone from the outside [to investigate]. By trying to shield the facts of the case. By refusing to make things public, she doesn’t inspire confidence and trust.”

Anjanette Young speaks to reporters outside the Chicago Police Department headquarters, in December 2020.
Anjanette Young speaks during a news conference outside the Chicago Police Department headquarters in December 2020.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Meza told the Finance Committee this week that Chicago police officers were “executing a valid, legal search warrant” when they raided Young’s home in February 2019, but it turned out to be based on false information that a male with a gun was living at that address.

Although the raid continued for roughly 40 minutes, Meza said Young was forced to stand in a “complete state of undress” for just 16 seconds.

A jacket was then placed around her shoulders for thirteen seconds, followed by a blanket. Ten minutes into the raid, Young was allowed to get fully dressed after a female officer arrived on the scene.

Because a judge let stand a “willful and wanton” count against officers involved in the botched raid — even after dismissing five other counts of Young’s lawsuit — Meza said that would open the door to “very broad discovery” of the dozen officers involved in the raid that could cost Chicago taxpayers a fortune.

The city’s case would be further damaged by the fact that the Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended the firing of one officer involved in the raid and suspensions for five others, Meza said.

For those reasons and more, Meza argued that taking the case to trial was too big a gamble.

“It is not unreasonable to assume that there would be a request for anywhere between $13 million and $16 million. Thirteen million for every officer and the city that was involved in execution of this search warrant. [Or] it could be $16 million for the 16 seconds that she was left in a complete state of undress,” Meza has said.

Lightfoot has been under fire for her changing story about what she knew and when she knew it about the botched raid.

The mayor initially insisted she knew nothing about the raid until WBBM-TV (Channel 2) aired the video in December 2020.

After reviewing internal emails, the mayor admitted she learned about the raid in November 2019, when a top aide warned Lightfoot about a “pretty bad wrongful raid” by Chicago police.

“I have a lot of questions about this one,” she wrote at the time to top aides.

The mayor has emphatically denied knowing anything about her Law Department’s efforts to block the CBS2 from airing bodycam video of the raid. To underscore the point, she forced the resignation of Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner, a longtime friend who served with Lightfoot in the U.S. attorney’s office.

Last month, now-retired Inspector General Joe Ferguson said Lightfoot’s decision to hire an outside law firm to investigate the raid and use attorney-client privilege to conceal details of that parallel investigation made it impossible for him to recommend disciplinary action against any city employees.

Ferguson characterized the Lightfoot administration’s handling of the Anjanette Young video as a “remarkable, troubling closing of a circle.”

“It brings us back where we were five or six years ago and where her career got its jump-start. Yet the city is engaged in similar activity — and in this instance, with respect to a living victim,” he said.

Lightfoot is a former Police Board president who, along with Ferguson, co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability in the furor after the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

The City Council also signed off on three other settlements totaling $2.15 million tied to allegations of police wrongdoing.

The largest of those settlements — for $1.2 million — goes to the family of 14-year-old Pedro Rios Jr., who was shot by an officer who chased him through an alley on July 4, 2014, then kicked the teenager’s body after he was shot.

Lopez complained that Chicago taxpayers were once again being asked to “pay for the lifestyle choices” of a young man who was affiliated with a gang “terrorizing” Chicago neighborhoods.

“We have to, at some point, say ‘Enough,’” Lopez said before the 36-to-12 vote.