CHICAGO (AP) — A judge rebuked four black people accused of beating a mentally disabled white man and broadcasting the attack on Facebook, sternly asking, “Where was your sense of decency?” before denying their attorneys’ pleas to set bail so they might be released from jail.
“I find each of you a danger to yourself and society,” Cook County Circuit Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil said, sounding baffled that the suspects who hold jobs, attend school and, in one case, care for a brother in a wheelchair could be charged with 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?
The beating was captured on cellphone video by one of the assailants and has since been viewed millions of times on social media. The footage shows the suspects taunting the victim with profanities against white people and President-elect Donald Trump.
Prosecutors offered new details of the assault, explaining that one of the suspects demanded $300 from the mother of the victim, who is schizophrenic and has attention-deficit disorder. They also said the beating started in a van when the same attacker became angry that the mother had contacted him asking that her son be allowed to come home.
A prosecutor told the judge that the suspects forced the victim to drink toilet water, kiss the floor and then allegedly stuffed a sock into his mouth and taped it shut as they bound his hands with a belt.
The four are charged with two counts of committing a hate crime — one because of the victim’s race and the other because of his mental disabilities.
On the video, the male suspects use knives to cut the victim’s hair and his sweatshirt. One of the females can be seen laughing. A female also laughs as she punches the victim.
One of the men pulls the cord from the victim’s sweatshirt around the victim’s neck and holds him up while the victim groans in pain, according to a document read in court. The victim can be heard screaming when one of the men walks up to him with a knife and asks if he should “shank” him.
At one point, the prosecutor said, someone on the video can be heard saying that he did not care if the victim was schizophrenic.
The four suspects were identified as Brittany Covington and Tesfaye Cooper, both of Chicago, and Jordan Hill, of suburban Carpentersville. All are 18. A fourth suspect was identified as Covington’s 24-year-old sister, Tanishia Covington, also of Chicago.
They stood quietly as the prosecutor read the allegations. Some of their relatives also listened, including a woman who wiped tears from her eyes.
Defense attorneys portrayed the suspects as hardworking, responsible and religious. Cooper, for example, takes care of his twin brother, who is in a wheelchair. Tanishia Covington has two small children. Her sister attends college and has a job. Hill, the judge was told, goes to church with his grandmother.