CHICAGO (CBS) — The two men and two women accused of kidnapping a mentally disabled teenager, and posting live video of his torture on Facebook, have pleaded not guilty to a spate of felony charges.
Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; Brittany Covington, 18; and Tanishia Covington, 24, have been charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery, and hate crime, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Hill also was charged with robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Hill, Cooper, and Brittany Covington also were charged with residential burglary.
Prosecutors said the victim, an 18-year-old man, has schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. The suspects were charged with a hate crime because of his mental disability and his race. The victim is white, and all four defendants are black.
All four defendants have been ordered held without bail, and formally pleaded not guilty Friday at their arraignment at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
The defendants told Judge William Hooks they could not afford private attorneys, so they have been assigned public defenders.
Family members, prosecutors, and defense attorneys all declined to discuss the case after court.
The Cook County Public Defender’s office represented them at earlier hearings in the case, and Public Defender Amy Campanelli has called the media coverage of the four “sensationalized” and “pervasive.” She also said it could poison the jury pool.
All four allegedly appear in a video posted live on Facebook, in which they could be seen beating him, cutting him, and shouting racial taunts.
Their attorneys have said the defendants have faced death threats because of the national outrage sparked by the video.
Police have said the victim’s parents dropped him off at McDonald’s on Dec. 31, 2016, so he could meet a friend and spend the night at his friend’s home. Hill allegedly picked him up there a short time later in a stolen vehicle and took him to the West Side of Chicago.
Hill allegedly drove around the West Side for the next few days, and the victim slept at night in the back of the van. Prosecutors said Hill grew angry after the victim’s mother contacted him on Facebook to ask where her son was.
On Tuesday, Hill allegedly took the victim to the Covington sisters’ home on the 3400 block of West Lexington Street, where they bound him, beat him, cut him, and tortured him for about six hours. They posted a live video of the attack on Facebook, and at least one other video surfaced on Twitter.
The videos showed the victim backed into a corner, his mouth duct-taped shut. The victim’s clothes were cut, he was peppered with cigarette ashes, and then his hair cut with a knife until his scalp bled. He also was forced to lick the floor, drink from a toilet, and say “F*** Donald Trump,” “F*** white people,” and “I love black people,” police and prosecutors have said.
The defendants allegedly demanded $300 ransom from the victim’s mother to get him back.
They were due back in court on March 1.