Four charged in Facebook Live torture case plead not guilty

Posted at 5:42 PM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 17:42:56-05

The four suspects charged in connection with a brutal attack on a special-needs teenager that was streamed on Facebook Live all pleaded not guilty Friday to charges including committing a hate crime.

Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper; 18; Brittany Covington, 18; and Tanishia Covington, 24, appeared in a Cook County, Illinois courtroom Friday. They have been held in jail without bond since their arrest last month.

The four have each been charged with a hate crime, felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

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

No bond was given. Their next court date, for a status hearing, was set for March 1st.

Police said Hill and the teen who was attacked were acquaintances who knew each other from school.

Hill drove the teen around for several days in the van — they apparently spent at least one night in the vehicle — before they went to the Covingtons’ apartment in Chicago.

The teen was tied up for four or five hours, Cmdr. Kevin Duffin of the Chicago Police Department told reporters last month.

The teen’s parents reported him missing and told police they had not heard from him after they dropped him off at a restaurant in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg on December 31.

Graphic video drew outrage and stunned the nation

The disturbing 30-minute video of the attack shows the 18-year-old victim cowering in a corner of a room, tied with his mouth bound in plastic. The video has stunned the country, not just because of the graphic abuse, but because of the comments made by some of the assailants.

Duffin said the department sought hate-crime charges because of the victim’s diminished mental capacity, the fact that the four suspects tied him up and the racial epithets heard on the video. The victim appears to be white; the suspects are African-American.

Video pulled from Facebook

Facebook said it pulled the original video from one of the suspect’s Facebook profile.

“We do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook and have removed the original video for this reason. In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed.”

According to its community standards, the company removes content, disables accounts and works with law enforcement in cases of a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety.

Facebook users also can report offensive material to the social platform. If a live stream starts blowing up, Facebook staffers monitor it for possible violations and interrupt it if needed.