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Four Facebook Live Torture Suspects Plead Not Guilty

By Stephen Gossett in News on Feb 10, 2017 6:32PM

Chicago Police Department

The four people charged with a hate crime, among other charges, in the torture case that was streamed on Facebook Live pleaded not guilty on Friday morning.

It was the first time the suspects were in court since being indicted in late January. They were denied bail at a bond court hearing earlier that month. The four are not due back in court until March 1.

Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; Brittany Covington, 18; and Tanishia Covington, 24 each face charges of aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Video of the attack—which was first streamed live on Facebook then heavily circulated on social media—shows the victim, a schizophrenic man, with his mouth taped and hands bound while his scalp and sweatshirt are cut with a knife. One offender is heard shouting, "fuck white people" and "fuck Donald Trump."

The video sparked widespread outrage. Supt. Eddie Johnson called the attack "brutal" and "sickening; and Barack Obama called it "despicable." Before charges were formally filed, the video was widely shared under the hashtag #BLMKidnapping, even though police eventually confirmed Black Lives Matter was in no way involved.

Public Defender Amy Campanelli in January said that "sensationalized" media coverage could potentially result in a contaminated jury pool. "[The clients] have already been denounced in the media before anything has been proven," she said after last month's indictment. Camera were not allowed in the courtroom during the indictment hearing due to reported death threats against the suspects.