Former top cop Eddie Johnson speaks out about sexual-abuse accusation

“I have two daughters that I had to talk to about this and my wife, and they will never understand how sorry I am. ... If I could change some things, I would, but I can’t.”

SHARE Former top cop Eddie Johnson speaks out about sexual-abuse accusation
With Mayor Lori Lightfoot, his 10-year-old son and his wife looking on, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced his retirement Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019.

Former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson was celebrated when he announced his planned retirement in November 2019. But within a month, that happy facade would fall.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

For the first time, former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson is speaking out about the infamous night that put his marriage through a ringer and his career down the tubes.

Late Friday night, Johnson’s lawyers filed an answer to his former driver, Cynthia Donald, who accused him of sexual abuse that lasted three years. Johnson claims the relationship with Donald, also married at the time, was “wholly consensual and mutually sustained.”

In an exclusive interview, Johnson apologized to his family and the city for the behavior that led to his ouster.

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“I have two daughters that I had to talk to about this, and my wife, and they will never understand how sorry I am because people always say: ‘Are you sorry you did it or are you sorry you got caught?’ And I get that. If I could change some things, I would, but I can’t,” Johnson told me.

“I’ve had an unblemished career as a police officer — not just superintendent, but as a police officer. We had a lot of difficult days, especially when I became superintendent. We had some horrific things happen in the city, not just to citizens but to police officers, and I would say this: I do have to say thank you to the huge amount of support I have received,” Johnson said.

“It’s one of those things that you can let it be a negative and bury you, and you can learn from it and try to be a better person because of it. So I have to consistently strive to talk to my family, especially my wife, and express how deeply sorry I am that all this happened. The people in Chicago, I want them to know I did my best as superintendent, but I am human, and like all humans, I might be prone to making a mistake, and that was a mistake. But I have never forced anyone to do anything that they didn’t want to do,” he said.

It would be great if the jury pool in the case of Cynthia Donald v. The City of Chicago, et al., could be made up entirely of police officers. Maybe then, we could get a real look at what goes on behind the blue wall.

Because it would be hard for the average person to understand how Johnson could get away with sexually abusing Donald for three years, and no one dropped a dime — not to his wife (a police lieutenant) or the mayor, or his enemies, or the press.

Is this how the “code of silence works?”

As far as we knew, Johnson was a hero, tackling the city’s skyrocketing murder rate and allegations of police misconduct with honor.

It wasn’t until a concerned citizen spotted his police vehicle illegally parked on a South Side street, with him slumped over the wheel, that his public persona crumbled.

A month before, Johnson was celebrated as a devoted family man, all set to retire.

When the sordid details emerged about what really happened that night of hard-drinking, Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson, saying he had lied to her.

And if that weren’t enough embarrassment for the former top cop to face, police were called to intervene in a domestic violence dispute at Johnson’s home days after the story broke that he was out carousing with Donald the night he fell asleep at the wheel.

Before the ink could dry on his walking papers, Johnson was smacked with a lawsuit that claims he repeatedly forced Donald, his personal driver, to engage in “unwanted sexual activity,” with details too salacious to repeat.

For the first time, Johnson is speaking extensively in an interview as hard on me as it was on him. Talking about this situation is difficult for him for obvious reasons.

It is difficult for me because, too often, Black leaders are unfairly maligned, And when Black leaders fall, it doesn’t tarnish only one person; it stigmatizes the entire race.

Johnson said he first met Donald when he was a deputy chief in Area Central in 2013.

“After it came out in December of 2019 that we were at the Ceres Cafe, it was assumed that we were involved in some relationship; I knew that she was nervous, and let’s face it, we had an intimate relationship for a couple of years,” he said.

“So after that came out, we still had contact, and I started to recognize something was afoot. And she did say to me she was going to file the lawsuit and request $5 million. ... It became clear that she included me, in subsequent conversations, to make it more ‘juicy,’” Johnson said.

Johnson claims it was Donald’s idea to go to Ceres Cafe that night.

“We went there to eat and talk and have a few drinks. My primary driver dropped me off at home, and I went back to headquarters and picked her up. We had two or three drinks at best,” he said.

“Since December 2019 until now, with everything that has gone on and the pending lawsuit, it has been incredibly stressful. I have to recognize I am not a perfect person. I own my part of what happened, but it has been incredibly stressful on my household,” Johnson told me.

If there’s any redemption for Johnson in this situation, it would be him helping someone else avoid similar mistakes.

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