Chicago's top attorney resigns amid botched police raid fallout

Lightfoot confirmed Mark Flessner's resignation Sunday

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, December 21, 2020
Chicago's top attorney resigns amid botched CPD raid fallout
EMBED <>More Videos

Mark Flessner, Chicago's top attorney, has resigned amid fallout over a botched CPD raid involving Anjanette Young.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's top attorney has resigned amid the fallout from a botched CPD raid last year.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office announced Sunday that she accepted the resignation of Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner effective immediately.

Lightfoot went on to thank Flessner for his service, but also said "I am committed to a full review of everything that occurred surrounding this incident, will take corrective action where appropriate, and will hold people accountable."

The incident to which the statement is referring was a botched Chicago police raid that occurred last year, of which video was recently released.

During a one-on-one interview with ABC7 Thursday Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, "I own this. Absolutely. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make this right."

Now, as the political firestorm continues to envelop the mayor's office, following last week's revelation that the city's law department tried to block police body cam video of a botched raid on an innocent woman's home from being aired.

Lightfoot admitted Thursday that she knew about the botched police raid that left Anjanette Young, an innocent woman, handcuffed with no clothes on. She called what happened in that home a "colossal failure" and has ordered changes to make sure it doesn't happen again.

As head of the city's law department, it was Flessner who signed off on the legal filing that sought to stop the public from seeing Young, in clear distress, standing handcuffed and naked for over 40 minutes as police officers executed a search warrant on her home.

In a statement, Flessner denied being part of a cover-up:

"Today, I offered my letter of resignation to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. It has been an honor to serve as Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago for the last two years and to be a part of my friend, Lori's team. I am tremendously proud of my work for the Lightfoot Administration and all that we have accomplished.

"There has recently been a great deal of attention drawn to the 2019 raid of Anjanette Young's home. Monday was the first involvement that I had with the case surrounding Anjanette Young, pertaining to the video footage that was obtained by police. It is clear that the raid of Anjanette Young's home was a tragedy that we must learn from.

"Standing up for racial injustice and fighting for equality within our justice system are crucial matters that we must continue to work toward addressing as a community."

But late Friday, Lightfoot's office acknowledged that they failed to turn over six videos to Anjanette Young's lawyers that were requested earlier this year, calling it "accidental."

"The mayor didn't know anything," said ABC 7 Political Analyst, Laura Washington. "The counsel didn't know anything. Other top staff didn't know anything and why wasn't action taken sooner. There are still a lot of questions out there that haven't been answered adequately."

Young's lawyer Keenen Saulter said he had no comment on Flessner's resignation Sunday. It is expected he will be filing a lawsuit against both the city and the police department on Young's behalf in the coming days.

Among the questions being asked are what consequences, if any, will the police officers present that night face for their treatment of Young? And why has it taken COPA, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability so long to investigate the incident?

"COPA must be dealt with. Two years of siting on this case is asinine and it's insulting," said Rev. Ira Acree with The Leaders Network. "They have no credibility. COPA should be dissolved. That would prove that we're trying to go in the right direction."

The fallout has community groups and activists continuing their calls for major changes to the police department.

Some are accusing Lightfoot of scapegoating and hypocrisy.

Twenty-four hours after claiming she only learned about the case of Chicago social worker Young on Tuesday, Mayor Lightfoot admitted she didn't remember the case until seeing the video for the first time this week and reviewing emails.

"I don't have any specific recollection of it," Lightfoot said. "It was in November when I was probably focused on budget issues and getting our budget passed through city council."

WATCH: Chicago mayor becomes emotional while discussing wrong raid video

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and Mayor Lori LIghtfoot speak about the body camera video showing a CPD raid on a wrong house in 2019.

Lightfoot said the city can't let what happened to Young in February 2019 happen again.

"I have an obligation to make that wrong, right," Lightfoot said Thursday, becoming emotional. "It's been painful, painful and upsetting."

Young said she's disappointed by the mayor, who ran on a platform of reform.

RELATED: Woman whose home Chicago police wrongfully raided says she feared for her life, relates to Breonna Taylor

"She let me down," Young said. "I want you to come back to my church and tell me how you're going to fix this. So I want accountability, and not accountability in the sense of the word, accountability in the sense of action, concrete things that will happen."

On WVON 1690 AM Friday morning, Lightfoot said she should have done more last year.

"I wish and I, and I should have dug deeper into Ms. Young's individual case," the mayor said. "Had I done that at the time, I would have found out about it, and asked to see the video, and we would have been talking about this in November of (20)19, not December (20)20."

She put her law department on notice, stressing that there cannot be another case like Young's.

"I told them -- every pleading that they file, every argument that they make, they are ambassadors of our values -- my values as a mayor and our values as an administration, and if they don't get that. That's a problem, and I want them out," Ligthfoot said.

The bodycam video shows six seconds elapse between the first knock on Young's door and Chicago police officers using a ram to forcibly break into her apartment.

"I ran into my living room, tried to grab something to cover myself and before I could do anything, the police were in," Young said. "The room was dark so I could just see lights and scopes on, guns pointed at me."

WATCH: Bodycam video sheds light on botched CPD raid

Raiding wrong addresses has cost the city lots of money in legal fees settlements and good will.

As Young tried to convince CPD that they had the wrong address, an officer - with search warrant in hand - seemed to realize that was true fairly quickly, even as police continued to process her home.

"If that was your mother, how would you want her be treated?" Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said. "You don't train that in academy. We hire people who we think know right from wrong. And if they don't know right from wrong, they don't need to be police officers."

While Supt. Brown announced a review of all search warrants Thursday, he said the changes applied to no-knock warrants only, which defense attorneys say represent a very small portion of all those signed off by judges.

RELATED: Bodycam video released in Walter Wallace Jr. shooting, Philadelphia officers involved identified

"We need to ensure this never happens again with reforms, policies procedures and accountability for the mistake," Brown said.

John Catanzara Jr., head of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, said cops are being scapegoated.

"Oh, there's no doubt she's trying to deflect the issue from the fact that she was part of a cover-up," Catanzara said. "The same ranting and raving she did about Rahm Emanuel is the same thing she's guilty of equally."

INTERVIEW: Lightfoot vows to regain trust after botched CPD raid

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is vowing change after bodycam video of a Chicago police raid on the wrong house was released, even as city legal officials tried to suppress it.

The mayor said she wants to personally speak to Young and has reached out to her attorney.

But Young said Lightfoot's attempt is too late.

"This has been going on for two years and before the exposure of the bodycam this week, there was no interaction from this from mayor's office or herself directly to me or my attorney," Young said. "And so years later, now she's sorry. And to be quite honest, that doesn't register to me as sincere at this point."

Young's case and the city's attempt to prevent the release of the video prompted the mayor to push for changes and to order the release all the video in her case.

Going forward, victims who reach out for case information will get it quickly, including video, the mayor said. The Law Department will review all pending search warrant cases, she said. The video release policy will be reviewed and the mayor wants the timeframe for release shortened.

The mayor ordered a top-to-bottom review of the case Thursday.

"There's a lot of trust that's been breached," Lightfoot said. "I know that there's a lot of trust in me, that's been breached. And I have a responsibility to build back that trust of responsibility, build that trust of our city, of our police department and all of government."