Lightfoot won’t be deposed in former top cop’s sexual harassment case

A federal judge on Thursday granted the city’s motion directing former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and his accuser to submit written questions to Mayor Lightfoot, shooting down a request for a potentially embarrassing deposition.

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Former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson looks on as Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks about the launch of “Our City. Our Safety.” in advance of Memorial Day weekend during a press conference in Ellis Park, Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A federal judge ruled Thursday that Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn’t have to be deposed in the sexual harassment lawsuit against former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Federal Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole granted the city’s motion directing Johnson and his accuser to submit written questions to the mayor, shooting down a request for a potentially embarrassing deposition.

The lawsuit filed by officer Cynthia Donald, Johnson’s former driver, alleges that the ex-top cop “engaged in shockingly violent, abusive, and harassing conduct” that included forced kissing, touching and oral and vaginal sex. It said much of the conduct occurred in his office at police headquarters, where Donald was assigned.

Johnson has denied the allegations.

Attorneys for Donald and Johnson wrote in a filing last month that Lightfoot had a meeting with Johnson on Oct. 17, 2019, when they discussed his relationship with Donald. The attorneys wrote that Lightfoot told Johnson “to take swift, adverse and retaliatory employment action” against Donald.

The mayor allegedly called Donald a “b----” and ordered Johnson during the meeting to send Donald to work in the 1st District. Lightfoot allegedly told him, “I want that f—ing sh– done today. There will be no debate about it, no conversation. I want it done, and I want it done by the end of today.”

In his ruling, Judge Cole noted that high-level officials like Lightfoot have at times been exempted from being deposed. Cole said the courts have the discretion to protect certain people from depositions if they don’t have “unique personal knowledge of the matter,” if the process would “impose a significant hardship” in light of their other duties or if the information sought could be obtained through other witnesses or discovery methods.

Cole said the key question is what evidence Lightfoot’s testimony could “bring to the table.”

And while he acknowledged that Johnson and Donald have claimed they’re entitled to depose Lightfoot to hear her out and learn what she knew about the case, Cole noted that Johnson didn’t follow through on the mayor’s “purported directive” to move Donald out of police headquarters. Instead, Cole added, Johnson merely moved her to the records division in the same building.

Cole advised city lawyers against using “boilerplate objections” to questions while warning Johnson and Donald “not to think they can use their interrogatories as an opportunity to embarrass or harass” Lightfoot.

“It is only the relevant facts that are critical,” he wrote.

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