Former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was accused of sexual harassment and assault on Thursday in a lawsuit filed by an officer who says she served as his personal driver. The lawsuit accuses Johnson, who was the highest ranking member of the department at the time, of “shockingly violent, abusive, and harassing conduct” that included multiple instances of forced oral and vaginal sex.
Johnson was fired from the department in December of 2019 after allegedly lying to Chicago’s mayor about an October 2019 incident in which he was found asleep in his car near his home.
The lawsuit, filed against Johnson and the city of Chicago, alleges that Johnson arranged for the officer, Cynthia Donald, to be assigned to his detail and then as his personal driver in 2016.
According to the lawsuit, Johnson first assaulted the plaintiff in the summer of 2016 when he performed nonconsensual oral sex on her at his personal office and ejaculated on her before telling her, “Now you know you belong to me.”
“Thereafter, Superintendent Johnson engaged in regular and frequent sexually harassing, abusive, and humiliating conduct towards Plaintiff, conduct which was persistent and unwanted and continued through the end of 2019,” the lawsuit alleges.
That conduct included multiple instances of forced oral sex, multiple instances in which Johnson locked Donald in his office and conditioned her release on performing sexual acts, and multiple “sexually suggestive and harassing remarks,” the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also alleges that he sent her nude photos and “regularly” referred to her with “sexually derogatory names and in sexually demeaning contexts.”
When Donald tried to resist Johnson’s advances, he would allegedly “throw tantrums and berate Plaintiff until she acquiesced and participated in unwanted sexual acts,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit further claims that Johnson used Donald’s desire to become a sergeant as leverage to force her to perform sexual acts, allegedly telling her she “needed to stay on his good side” if she wanted the job and that “the list of favors” she owed him was expanding as he reassigned others to clear her path to the promotion. He allegedly said she’d need to “pay up soon,” which she interpreted as referring to sexual acts.
The lawsuit states that Donald was with Johnson on October 16, the day he was found in his car, although she says she left hours earlier. Mayor Lori Lightfoot discovered Johnson’s “highly inappropriate behavior” towards Donald from a city investigation into the incident, according to the lawsuit. But rather than help the victim, the lawsuit alleges, the mayor ordered Johnson to “dump” her by reassigning her away from department headquarters.
“In the days following the Eddie Johnson incident, neither Mayor Lightfoot, the City of Chicago, nor the CPD ever formally interviewed or even informally spoke with Plaintiff about the incident or the pattern of abuse she suffered from Superintendent Johnson,” the lawsuit claims.
Johnson did not reassign her away from the building and instead moved her to the records department, which was also located at police headquarters, the lawsuit alleges. He allegedly continued to harass her after the transfer, and after he was fired, he allegedly “stalked Plaintiff by constantly calling, texting and showing up to locations where he knew Plaintiff would be, resulting in Plaintiff fearing for her personal safety.”
Johnson’s attorney told CBS Chicago that none of the allegations are true, and that Johnson denies all claims of abuse or harassment.
In a statement obtained by The Chicago Tribune, Johnson called the allegations “patently false.”
“The allegations of sexual assault and harassment made by Ms. Donald never happened. Her accusations are not only patently false, they are egregiously dehumanizing towards true victims who have truly suffered sexual assault and harassment in the workplace,” he said. “The claims are an affront to everything I believe in and stand for. I pray for Ms. Donald’s well-being and look forward to the opportunity where the facts can be presented.”
The city’s law department told CBS Chicago in an email that it could not comment on the specific allegations, but said, “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.”
At a press conference on Thursday, Donald’s attorneys said she did not file a criminal complaint because she didn’t think it was a viable way to hold her superiors accountable, according to CBS Chicago. But the attorneys said that if the prosecutors want to investigate and press charges, “that’s their prerogative.”
The state attorney’s office in Cook County, where the lawsuit was filed, declined to confirm or deny to CBS Chicago if it is investigating.
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