CHICAGO – The suspects accused of torturing a schizophrenic man and streaming it live on Facebook are now being threatened, one of their attorneys said at a court hearing Friday.
During the indictment, the judge tightened restrictions on news coverage of the case, according to WGN-TV. Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom and the judge told the sketch artist to not draw the defendants or defense lawyers' faces after alleged death threats online.
Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington – all 18 – and Covington’s 24-year-old sister, Tanishia Covington, are all charged in the kidnap and torture of an 18-year-old white schizophrenic man from Chicago suburb Crystal Lake.
The victim knew one of the defendants from a former school they attended.
Hill is accused of meeting up with the victim at a Schaumburg McDonalds on New Year's Eve, then stealing a van in Streamwood and driving the victim to an apartment of the Covington sisters on Chicago's West Side.
That's where prosecutors say they gagged and beat the teen, cut his scalp with a knife, made him drink toilet water and say “I love Black people” and “F--- Trump” while they streamed the torture live on Facebook.
After Friday's court hearing, defense attorneys laid out death threats they said have been made on social media.
“There was a posting that invited a good Samaritan to publicly execute these defendants,” said assistant public defender Neil Toppel “And (they) also said anybody that supports them should be executed as well.” Toppel said the comment also called for a deadly mob attack against the four.
The defense attorneys told the judge they have concerns about a contaminated jury pool because of the sensationalism of the case, and the judge agreed.
The defendants are still being held without bond and are facing several charges including aggravated kidnapping, residential burglary, unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and a hate crime. Hill is also charged with robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle.
If convicted of the most serious charges, the four face up to 30 years in prison.
An arraignment is set for February 10th, at which point defense attorneys say they will file a new motion for bond.