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Chicago torture case: 'Where was the sense of decency?' Judge orders defendants held without bond

CHICAGO – Four defendants accused of taunting and torturing a mentally ill Crystal Lake man and streaming it live on Facebook will be held without bond, a Cook County judge ruled Friday.

The defendants, three of whom are from Chicago and one from Carpentersville, all are charged with two hate crimes – one because the young man was disabled and one because of race. The 18-year-old victim is white, and the four alleged assailants are black. In court Friday, the victim was said to suffer from both schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder.

The four suspects also are accused of kidnapping and battery, among other offenses.

In issuing her decision, Associate Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil said the defendants are “a danger to yourself and society,” which led her to deny bond.

“I’m looking at each of you and wondering where was the sense of decency that each of you should have had?” Kuriakos Ciesil said, sounding baffled that the suspects who hold jobs, attend school, live with grandparents and, in one case, care for a brother in a wheelchair, could stand accused of attacking the 18-year-old victim. How, she wondered, could she agree to allow people accused of such “terrible actions” to walk out of jail?

After the judge’s ruling, some audience members who packed the courtroom responded with cheers – one yelled “Yes!” Relatives of the defendants responded with an audible disappointment before Kuriakos Ciesil ordered the courtroom quiet.

The accused are Brittany Covington and Tesfaye Cooper, both of Chicago, and Jordan Hill, of Carpentersville. All are 18. A fourth suspect was identified as Covington’s 24-year-old sister, Tanishia Covington, who also is from Chicago.

All four were charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, as well as the hate crimes. Cooper and Brittany Covington also face residential burglary charges, while Hill also faces charges of robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

All four defendants were represented in court Friday by public defenders, who were seeking “reasonable bail” for the four.

After the judge’s decision, family members of the defendants rushed past a throng of reporters and TV cameras assembled in the hallway. 

Priscilla Covington, the grandmother who lives with the two sisters, told reporters, “I didn’t raise them that way.”

Two of the suspects also have arrest records as juveniles. Hill was arrested in 2015 on charges of armed robbery, possession of a stolen vehicle and residential burglary. Tanishia Covington was arrested in 2007 on attempted armed robbery and aggravated battery charges.

During Friday’s hearing, new details of the attack were released, including that Hill – who was identified in court Friday as an acquaintance of the victim after both attended the same alternative high school – allegedly demanded the victim’s mother pay $300 for her son’s return. The state alleges that Hill stole a van in Streamwood and then drove the suspect and another unidentified individual to an unknown location.

Once there, Hill and the other individual left the victim in the van unattended for what the victim told authorities was about two hours. During that time, the state told the judge, the victim’s mother was trying to contact Hill on Facebook about her son’s whereabouts. 

Hill then returned to the van, angry about being contacted by the victim’s mother, and began to beat the victim before taking his cellphone and SIM card, authorities said.

The victim was then taken to the third-floor apartment where the assault – which the state characterized as torture – continued.

Once at the apartment, the four defendants slapped, cut, beat and mocked the victim, prosecutors allege. Footage from the video shows the assailants cutting the gagged victim’s scalp with a knife, punching him and forcing him to drink from a toilet.

The 30-minute video also included footage of one of the male defendants pulling a chord around the victim’s neck and holding him up while the victim is groaning in pain. A male voice is heard on the video saying, “I don’t give a f*** if he’s schizophrenic.”

Hill allegedly also threatened to kill the victim.

During the alleged attack, the victim – according to the state – was forced to say, “I love black people” and “F**** Trump” and made to kiss the floor.

Neighbors on the second floor heard the sounds of the attack and heard yelling and stomping sounds as well as laughing, authorities said. On Tuesday, one of the witnesses went upstairs and requested that the noise be held down. Later in the day, the neighbor went back up to the third-floor apartment to complain about the noise. 

A confrontation took place before the female defendants and Cooper chased the neighbors back to the second floor, authorities said. Hill threatened to leave and return with a gun. Cooper then allegedly kicked in the door of the second-floor apartment, which forced the neighbors to leave their apartment and go to a first-floor apartment, where they called 911, authorities said.

During that time, the victim was able to escape the third-floor apartment and flee outside, where he was spotted by police.

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