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Facebook Live case: 4 deny torturing mentally ill Crystal Lake teen

Published: Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 11:23 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 11:28 p.m. CDT
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Tesfaye Cooper, Tanishia Covington, Brittany Covington all of Chicago and Jordan Hill of Carpentersville were charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

CHICAGO – The four defendants charged with torturing a Crystal Lake teen who is mentally ill and then broadcasting the incident on Facebook Live all entered pleas of not guilty Friday morning.

The four – Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; and sisters Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24 – remain in custody and are being held without bond. All four told Cook County Judge William H. Hooks on Friday that neither they nor their families can afford private attorneys and wish to continue to be represented by the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.

Attorneys from the public defender’s office entered the not guilty pleas for their clients.

The four defendants now have been indicted on charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, as well as a pair of hate crimes – one because of the victim’s mental illness and one because he is white.

Cooper and Brittany Covington also face residential burglary charges, while Hill also faces charges of robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

The four are scheduled to return to court March 1.

Last month, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli said that once the four were arraigned, which they were Friday morning, she would file a motion to have their bond reconsidered. 

All four have been held without bond since being charged in early January. Campanelli, who was not in court Friday morning, said last month it is her belief that the four defendants are being held without bond because “they have been prejudged.”

Initially, a Cook County judge ordered them held without bond because she considered the defendants “a danger to yourself and to society.”

Cooper, Hill and the Covington sisters are alleged to have tortured the victim for several hours. The four defendants allegedly slapped, cut, beat and mocked the victim, prosecutors have said. 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 Facebook Live video also included footage of one of the male assailants pulling a cord 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, who was a classmate of the victim at an alternative high school in Streamwood, allegedly called the victim’s mother and demanded $300 for her son’s safe return. Hill, according to prosecutors, became enraged when the victim’s mother continually contacted him via his Facebook page and demanded that her son return home.

The victim is said to suffer from both schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder.

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