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Former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson sued for sex assault, harassment

The suit was filed by officer Cynthia Donald, a former member of Johnson’s security detail, who was a central figure in the events that ultimately led Mayor Lori Lightfoot to fire Johnson last year.

Former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson
Former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson
Sun-Times file photo

A Chicago police officer who was assigned to former Supt. Eddie Johnson’s security detail has filed a sexual abuse and harassment lawsuit against the former top cop.

The five-count lawsuit, filed late Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court by officer Cynthia Donald, claims that while Johnson was her boss he forced Donald to perform sex acts and sent her unsolicited lewd photos, and the city of Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot retaliated against her when the allegations against Johnson came to light.

Donald also claims Johnson admitted to damaging or destroying evidence on his cellphone sought by the Office of Inspector General.

“My hope in coming forward with my story of sexual assault, abuse, discrimination and harassment by former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson and the city of Chicago is that other women who are also survivors of abuse and harassment by Supt. Johnson and other male CPD officers will have the courage to come forward and speak out,” Donald said during a video press conference Thursday.

Donald was a central figure in the events that ultimately led Lightfoot to fire Johnson last year, a month before he was scheduled to retire. Lightfoot told reporters that the former superintendent “intentionally misled the people of Chicago and he intentionally misled me.”

In a statement issued to the Chicago Sun-Times, Johnson forcefully pushed back on the allegations, saying Donald’s claims “are not only patently false, they are egregiously dehumanizing towards true victims who have truly suffered sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

“The claims are an affront to everything I believe in and stand for,” Johnson added. “I pray for Ms. Donald’s well-being and look forward to the opportunity where the facts can be presented.”

Chicago Police officer Cynthia Donald
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Johnson promoted Donald to his security detail shortly after he was named superintendent in 2016.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson noticed Donald while she was assigned to the CPD’s First District station in the South Loop.

The suit alleges Johnson then called a friend of his, remarked on Donald’s appearance and said: “How did we miss this one?”

“Superintendent Johnson then masterminded a plan to have Plaintiff assigned to his unit so that he could be close to her, keep her under his control, dictate her work hours and schedule, ply her with alcohol, and perpetrate his sexual harassment and abuse of her,” the suit states.

One of Donald’s attorneys, Robert McLaughlin, said of their relationship: “At no time was it consensual.”

In May 2016, Johnson arranged for Donald to be transferred to his security detail. Six months later, according to the suit, he made Donald his personal driver.

Donald alleges the first instance of sexual assault occurred within the next three months in Johnson’s fifth floor office at CPD headquarters in Bronzeville.

Johnson summoned Donald to his office and pushed her onto a couch, removed her pants without her consent, performed oral sex on her and then ejaculated onto her body. Donald alleges that Johnson then said: “Now you know you belong to me.”

Johnson’s alleged behavior toward Donald was, according to the lawsuit, an open secret in CPD headquarters. McLaughlin said that at least six other members of CPD’s command staff were aware of Johnson’s behavior.

“On an occasion when Superintendent Johnson had a verbal altercation with his secretary, the secretary said to him, ‘I see you’re having a bad day, let me go get Cynthia [Plaintiff] – your eye candy,’” the suit states.

According to the lawsuit, Lightfoot ordered Johnson to remove Donald from his detail and assign her to another police station when an investigation was launched after the October 2019 incident.

Afterward, Johnson told Donald “that b**ch [Mayor Lori Lightfoot] is trying to steal ‘my music’” and “this tiny negro [Lightfoot] is still clowning,” the suit states.

Instead, Donald was transferred to the records department on the second floor of police headquarters.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department declined to comment on most of the suit’s contents, but said: “Mayor Lightfoot emphatically denies, and common sense dictates, that Eddie Johnson ever told the Mayor about allegations of abuse or harassment of Cynthia Donald by Eddie Johnson.”

Since her transfer, the suit states, Donald has been diagnosed with PTSD “as a direct result of Defendants’ actions and course of conduct.”

McLaughlin said that though Donald filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she never pursued criminal charges against Johnson for his alleged behavior because of “the culture in CPD.”

“Officers don’t feel comfortable, they don’t feel safe to where they can report bad behavior, sexual assaults perpetrated by their superiors that are police officers,” McLaughlin said.

Johnson was found slumped over the wheel in a city-owned SUV a few blocks from his Bridgeport home in the early hours of Oct. 17, 2019. At a news conference later that day, he said he was out to dinner with some friends and forgot to take his prescribed medication.

Johnson said he dismissed his driver for the night and opted to take himself home, but felt tired during the drive and pulled over. Johnson later told Lightfoot that he had “a couple of drinks” with dinner.

However, according to sources, Johnson was actually at Ceres Café — a downtown bar known for its generous cocktail pours — drinking with Donald for several hours.

Sources said Johnson and Donald were seen on restaurant video kissing repeatedly.

The former superintendent is married to CPD Lt. Nakia Fenner and the two have a young son together.

After Ceres, Johnson drove Donald back to CPD headquarters, and she went home from there. Johnson tried to drive himself home, but was found asleep behind the wheel in the 3400 block of South Aberdeen.

Police bodycam footage, released by the city earlier this year, shows two officers walking up to Johnson’s SUV, one on each side.

Johnson was in the driver’s seat with his eyes closed. After an officer tapped on the window and asked if he was OK, Johnson held up some form of identification. Johnson never underwent a field sobriety test, and the officer turned off his bodycam before a supervisor arrived on the scene and escorted Johnson home.

During the ride, Johnson rolled through a stop sign and made a slow, wide turn into a wrong lane, according to the inspector general’s office.

Five officers, including Deering District Cmdr. Don Jerome, now face suspensions for covering up for Johnson.