Ex-Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson accused of sexual assault in lawsuit

Mayor Lightfoot said Johnson fired for 'intolerable' actions

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Friday, October 16, 2020
Former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson accused of sexual assault in suit
Former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Now you know you belong to me."

With those seven words, 14-year Chicago police Officer Cynthia Donald said her boss, then-CPD superintendent Johnson, finished a forced sex act on her and commenced more than three years of physical and mental tumult.

Donald said the assault happened in Johnson's office at CPD Headquarters in the summer of 2016.

Supported by vivid sexual descriptions, Donald on Thursday filed a 33-page lawsuit in Cook County court that alleges she was sexually assaulted by Johnson on a regular basis, and forced to work in a hostile environment. Donald said that the city's top cop referred to her as "his girl."

"He made it clear to Officer Donald that she had to follow his orders, which included engaging in unwanted sexual activity with him, in order to keep her job" her attorney said on Thursday.

She frequently worked as Johnson's driver, chauffeuring him to official functions, police events and crime scenes.

At an afternoon news conference, Donald and her legal team said that Johnson destroyed records of their relationship, including the data card in the city cell phone.

RELATED: Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson fired for 'intolerable' actions, Mayor Lightfoot says

In response to an I-Team question, they said that at least a half-dozen high-ranking Chicago police officials knew of the illicit relationship between Johnson and Donald.

Johnson was fired after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said he lied to her about an incident last year in which the superintendent was found slumped over the wheel of a car on the South Side. Johnson was said to have told the mayor that he had a reaction to medication. It later came out that Johnson and Donald had been in a Loop restaurant drinking.

According to the lawsuit, that incident drew Lightfoot into the fray and resulted in Donald's demotion.

"After that night, I understand that Lori Lightfoot was updated as to what happened. And instead of speaking with Cynthia herself or ordering a thorough investigation, she told Eddie to quote 'dump Cynthia' and remove her from his security detail and put her in the records department at a desk job," Donald's attorney said.

Donald, currently on medical leave from the department, said through her attorney that she never had a consensual relationship with Johnson, and maintains it was always forced.

An attorney for Johnson did not immediately respond to I-Team messages.

Lightfoot's office said it does not comment on lawsuits.

But officials with the Chicago Inspector General said they will release a report on their investigation of Johnson Friday. It's expected to reveal disciplinary action taken against officers from the street stop of Johnson a year ago.

In a statement, the Chicago Law Department said "We are aware of the lawsuit filed by Cynthia Donald against Mr. Johnson and the City. Mr. Johnson was terminated from his role as superintendent in connection with his conduct during the events of October 16-17, 2019. We cannot comment on the specific allegations, which, if true, would be inexcusable. Mayor Lightfoot emphatically denies, and common sense dictates, that Eddie Johnson ever told the Mayor about allegations of abuse or harassment of Cynthia Donald by Eddie Johnson. Ms. Donald's lawyers never claimed otherwise."

Johnson's attorney Thomas Needham, a former assistant Cook County state's attorney and longtime general counsel to various CPD superintendents, told the I-Team that Johnson "is vehemently denying all these allegations of sexual misconduct."