CHICAGO (CBS) — As we close out 2021 – another challenging year on top of what seemed like an impossible year – we wanted to reflect on all the changes we have been part of at CBS 2.
The CBS 2 Investigators have a reputation of getting results, changing lives, and changing laws through our investigations. There was a lot to report for 2021.
New Illinois Laws Passed To Protect Sex Crime Victims’ Privacy
CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards first learned in 2020 that a law was being broken in plain sight. Cook County officials left the personal information of child sex crime victims in public court records, violating a state law that requires those details be kept hidden.
For more than a month, we were met with finger-pointing and pushback over why such intimate case details were public. But finally this year, we saw some accountability.
Two pieces of legislation signed this year were the first of their kind in the country. They require sensitive details like names, phone numbers, and home addresses be removed from publicly-available court documents from sexual offense cases. The new laws say any outside parties wanting access will have to request it from a judge, who will then decide whether to temporarily unseal the file.
But ensuring that private information is removed from the records requires hours of painstaking review of every page of case files that are often hundreds of pages long.
Ahead of the passage of the new laws, the staff of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez scrubbed more than 6,700 cases involving sexual assault and abuse of children, and officials told CBS 2 any new cases will be protected going forward. They’ve also taken steps to ensure those documents can’t be printed out — something CBS 2 documented happening multiple times over the course of its investigation. Staff will now screen document requests and, if the documents are related to a sex offense case, the requestor will have to file a motion asking a judge for access to the case file.
Martinez’s team is also working on an even more formidable task: doing the same thing for more than 70,000 cases involving adult victims. That process will take many more months.
Those new laws, signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in August, take effect at the start of the new year. And they don’t just affect Cook County — all 102 circuit court clerks in the state now have to comply.
We’ll follow up to make sure all the counties are doing their due diligence.
Police Review Methods After 10-Year-Old Girl Is Sexually Abused By Multiple Men Who Remain Free
A 10-year-old girl was sexually abused by multiple men at a Far South Side motel, and these men – known to police – remained free until the CBS 2 Investigators got involved.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini revealed how the system failed to protect the young girl, despite years of warnings and calls for help. Savini’s investigation revealed that when police found the little girl at the Grand Motel on South Halsted Street, they took her home instead of to a hospital to be examined.
Officers finally arrested one of these predators, Samuel Brown, 37, in March. Brown has been accused of meeting the girl on a dating app and sexually assaulting her in a Chicago-area garage last May.
Police had DNA evidence linking him to the rape since November, and yet, no investigation, no arrests, and no charges were made.
Because of Savini’s reporting, Chicago Police are reviewing how their department handles such crimes. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in March that her office is working with CPD to “review and revise policies involving the sexual abuse and human trafficking of minors.”
The mayor demanded criminal investigations be opened into all of the girl’s other accused offenders and is launching an internal investigation into how and why CPD failed this little girl.
Illinois State Inspector Fired After Doggy Daycare Owner CBS 2 He Groped Her
Leah Bindig’s livelihood depended on whether she passed or failed an Illinois state inspection of her doggy daycare – and it was all in the hands of a state inspector caught on camera groping her right at her business.
“Then he starts putting his hand on my shoulder, on my arm, on my back. I didn’t know what to do. I was just like, let it happen and be over,” said Bindig, owner of Aeslin Pup Hub.
Chicago Police had been investigating the case for months, But just one week after CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey broke the story, the inspector, Jose Guillen, was fired from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Afterward, several other women reached out to Hickey with similar complaints. They agreed to an exclusive interview with Hickey, revealing a disturbing pattern that went unchecked until we got involved.
Chicago Police told us in July that they are still actively investigating the criminal complaints against Guillen. Other victims have now filed additional reports with the department.
CBS 2 Investigators Go Undercover And Find Pharmacist Selling ‘Empty’ COVID Vaccine Vials Online
The feds called it first – used COVID-19 vaccine vials for sale on the web. CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker exposed it happening in our community – right out in the open, and by someone who should know better.
We searched online ecommerce platforms and it didn’t take long to find someone selling a pair of vials – one each, Pfizer and Moderna – on eBay for $35. The posting described them as “Used empty vials (contains no drugs).” The post showed 28 pairs had been sold and 9 were still available. There had been 19 views of the post in the past hour when we took the screenshot.
The eBay post and the seller both vanished from the site after we shared what we had discovered with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, who in turn shared it with the Food and Drug Administration.
About a week later, we searched again – this time we found a seller on Craigslist. That seller used the same picture, selling a pair of vials for the same price. But the description was slightly different. This post described the vials as “Empty and sterilized- there is no medicine inside” and advertised them to buyers as a way to “Own a piece of history today.”
Plus, there was another clue. This seller appeared to be from Winnetka, a suburb just 19 miles north of Chicago.
We contacted this seller by email first, and we got a phone number. He seemed anxious to sell, texting: “if you pay me by zelle [sic] and provide me your address, for shipping cost of $3, I can send it to you via first class delivery.”
We didn’t want the vials shipped to us. We wanted to meet this mystery man in person. He texted that he got the vials “from my hospital,” and he offered to “bring the vials to work” and meet us at “st [sic] Joseph hospital (2900 lakeshore drive).”
With CBS 2 undercover cameras rolling, we noticed a man in a blue dress shirt walking across the street from St. Joseph to the walking path in the park. It looked like he was carrying something in his hands.
“You want the vials?” he asked our CBS 2 producer.
“Yeah,” she replied, and she asked, “How many people like me are out there wanting to have these?”
The man answered, “Oh my God, it’s a crazy amount, because everybody wants a souvenir, and everything like that.”
We set out to learn everything we could about who’s selling empty vaccine vials online. On LinkedIn, we found a profile for a Pharmacy director at St. Joseph named Jia Li. He lives in Winnetka. Remember the Craigslist post was from a seller in Winnetka. And we checked — a Jia Li from Winnetka has been a registered pharmacist in Illinois since 1997. But we never found a Jia Li at St. Joseph Hospital, so his LinkedIn page must be fake.
We ultimately found a pharmacist named Jia Li – working three-and-a-half miles away at Thorek Memorial Hospital. We snapped a couple of grainy photos of our seller entering Thorek. Inside, when we asked for Li, we learned he goes by John Li. And we were told we would find him downstairs.
Downstairs, another surprise. John Li is not just any pharmacist. He’s the boss, the Director of Pharmacy at Thorek.
Thorek Hospital said in an email that it took “appropriate disciplinary action.” Chief executive officer Edward Budd added it was “an isolated incident by an individual who expressed remorse and regret.”
Thanks To CBS 2’s Reporting, Arab Americans in Illinois Are Finally Counted When They Get Their Vaccine
On forms for COVID-19 vaccine, there was a box for Black, white, Native American, Asian, and Latino – but for Arab-Americans there was no box at all. That issue was at the center of a CBS 2 Investigation in May – revealing how city, county, and state agencies were failing Arab-Americans.
As the life-saving vaccine was rolling out, the lack of official data made it difficult for community groups to get proper funding and convince Arab Americans to get their shots.
CBS 2 spoke to Arab Americans in the Chicago area, like Arwa Abulaila, whose family members died from the virus. A review of Cook County Medical Examiner data revealed Abulaila’s mother, Ayseh, and others were categorized as either white, Asian or “other.”
“I feel like we’re not noticed,” Abulaila said. “I feel like we’re left behind.”
CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker set out on a mission to change that – and she did.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) created a new category for those who identify as Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) to choose when they get their vaccine. It can be viewed on the state’s public vaccine dashboard.
Police Search Warrant Reforms Follow CBS 2’s Coverage Of Botched Raid On Anjanette Young
Our CBS 2 Investigation into the botched police raid at the home of Anjanette Young has gotten national attention.
We believed her and told her story before we saw the video. The city even tried to get a federal judge to shut us down, but we bulldogged it through – and we’re glad we did.
Young’s case spurred key search warrant reforms and policy changes within the Chicago Police Department.
Those changes include a first-ever requirement for CPD to track wrong raids that result from faulty information, such as the raid on Anjanette Young‘s home nearly three years ago.
So-called “no-knock” warrants also will be banned “except in specific cases where lives or safety are in danger,” and must be approved by a bureau chief or higher, and will only be served by SWAT teams, rather than the officers who obtained the warrant.
All other search warrants will now have to be approved by a deputy chief or higher. That’s a huge move, because that’s three ranks above the previous requirement of a lieutenant approval.
During any raid, a female officer will now have to be present for the serving of all search warrants. A lieutenant or higher must be there to oversee the scene. And, in line with a previous policy, officers will also have to make note of any situation where they point a gun at any person.
All warrants also will require an independent investigation before approval and execution to corroborate the information used to obtain the warrant.
Before any search warrant is carried out, the team serving the warrant must conduct a planning session to “identify any potentially vulnerable people who may be present at the location in question, including children.”
Here is a breakdown of other developments in the Anjanette Young case since our first report:
• CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reported our first story about Anjanette Young on Nov. 12, 2019. The raid took place on Feb. 21, 2019. It was a Thursday night, and Young had just undressed in her bedroom while looking forward to relaxing with an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Her door burst open and a “swarm” of police officers pointing guns stormed in. They were there to execute a search warrant, but they had the wrong home.
• CBS 2 aired the body cam video of the raid on Dec. 17, 2020. Young had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the video to show the public what happened to her that day. CBS 2 also filed a request for the video. The Chicago Police Department denied the requests, but Young obtained the footage after a court forced CPD to turn it over as part of her lawsuit against police. Hours before the TV version of our report on the body cam video was broadcast, the city’s lawyers attempted to stop CBS 2 from airing the video by filing an emergency motion in federal court.
• Young refiled her lawsuit in state court Feb. 19, 2021 after withdrawing her original lawsuit from federal court. Her case as of Nov. 9, 2021 was still ongoing and had not been settled, and it was unclear what was going to happen despite promises from the Mayor Lori Lightfoot to settle it swiftly.
• In April 2021, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability announced it had completed its 18-month investigation of the raid, which included nearly 100 misconduct allegations against the more than a dozen police officers who were involved. COPA forwarded its findings to Chicago Police Supt. David Brown. CBS 2 reported he will review the COPA recommendations before determining whether the department will discipline the officers. It remained unclear as of November 2021 when the disciplinary actions would be taken.
• The Chicago Office of the Inspector General completed its investigation of how the raid/fallout was handled in early October.
• In November, COPA recommended potential termination or suspension for multiple officers for their role in the Young raid.
Officer Who Bragged ‘I Kill Motherf——’ Removed From Community Safety Team
The CBS 2 Investigators have repeatedly exposed flaws in the disciplinary action of the Chicago Police Department.
Officer James Hunt, who bragged, “I kill motherf——” during an obscenity-laden rant captured on video in 2018, was assigned to CPD’s Community Safety Team around the time it was formed in July 2020. It was intended to combat violent crime and “build and strengthen community relationships citywide,” according to the head of the team, Deputy Chief Mike Barz.
Hunt meant it when he said he’d killed a person. In 2014, he shot 17-year-old DeSean Pittman 10 times. And during his time as a CPD officer, he’s racked up more use of force reports than almost any other officer. With 28 reports between 2016 and July 2020, he has the fifth-most reports during that period, along with three other officers, according to CPD data analyzed by CBS 2.
His troubling track record extends beyond his frequent use of force. It also includes at least 24 complaints made by civilians for everything from using racist language to excessive force to illegal searches and false arrests, according to records from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which handles citizen complaints against police.
And in August 2020, less than a month after the team was formed, Hunt was accused again – this time of an improper stop and racial profiling, according to COPA records reviewed by CBS 2. Hunt wasn’t on the team that day, though he had been assigned to it recently. COPA’s investigation into that complaint is pending.
Kenneth Lee, the subject of Hunt’s vulgar 2018 rant, made one of the more than two dozen complaints after the incident — which ended with Hunt falsely arresting Lee.
Hunt remained on the Community Safety Team until at least early March, when he was reassigned after CBS 2 started asking questions about his placement on the unit – but before our report aired.
Why is Hunt still working? He is fighting his suspension, which is still in arbitration.
Drivers Refunded After Getting Tickets From Speed Cameras With Signs That Had Mistakes
While working on a CBS 2 Investigation in June about the city’s recent decision to start ticketing drivers for going just 6 miles an hour over the limit, one of the first things we did was look at all of our video. We scrolled through and noticed a quick shot of a sign warning drivers about a speed camera ahead.
Something caught our eye. We checked it again and realized what was wrong.
One sign said no speeding between 6 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. It’s supposed to read 9:30 p.m. – the time the nearby park closes.
That wrong sign is on Cicero Avenue near Gunnison Street and points to a speed camera around the corner at 4831 W. Lawrence Ave. That’s where one driver we spoke with got several of those new $35 tickets after 9:30 in the morning.
We wondered if there are other wrong signs out there. We went looking, crisscrossing Chicago, eyeballing nearly 300 speed camera signs. We found more.
Afterward, CBS 2 asked the Department of Finance and the Mayor’s office, why not refund the money to those who already paid tickets and dismiss the tickets of those who haven’t?
CDOT and the Department of Finance responded with this joint statement: “The inaccurate signs have been replaced and we are in the process of auditing the transactions related to these cameras so that refunds can be issued to those who have been inappropriately ticketed.”
Getting Hosed: Vietnam Veteran Gets Hosed And Bulldozed
For almost three years and counting, CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards has been investigating into the city’s broken water billing system and why the city hasn’t done anything. we learned part of the why. We asked for internal city emails and they sent us some – enough to bury us in paper and enough to say too much.
Instead, we went through every one – thousands.
Rodney Andrews — a Vietnam Veteran, a Chicago cabbie, and our main protagonist — was among those “Getting Hosed” by the City until we fixed his bill. Then, out of the blue, he got bulldozed. His garage was torn down.
The CBS 2 Investigators first introduced Mr. Andrews back in 2019, when his water bill ballooned to $10,700.57.
Mr. Andrews’ problems began back in 2003, when he bought his home from a friend who was facing financial difficulties. The two agreed that the friend would repurchase the home from Mr. Andrews after two years – but his friend’s finances never improved, leaving Mr. Andrews to assume the responsibilities of a property owner.
When his friend finally moved out of the house in 2007, he transferred a $214.07 bill to Mr. Andrews.
Even though Mr. Andrews never moved into the house and not a drop was used since his friend left, the water bills began increasing exponentially because the account was unmetered. Remember — unmetered accounts are billed on arbitrary factors like property size and plumbing fixtures, not actual water usage. And as a result, his bill spiraled to $10,700.57.
After our investigation into his bad bill, the City reduced his total to $3,164.63.
Then, through the generosity of viewers touched by Mr. Andrew’s story, he received assistance paying the remaining balance of the bill and help turning his house into a home.
But then, Mr. Andrews’ neighbor had informed him that his garage had been bulldozed — a truth that was hard to reconcile with as he thought he had remedied the situation a month prior through the administrative hearing process.
During the spring, a bad storm caused a tree to deteriorate the roofing on Mr. Andrews’ garage. In August, a neighbor filed a complaint with the City and in September, the City subsequently called Mr. Andrews in for an administrative hearing to determine whether there were any safety violations. The determination? No fines issued as it didn’t pose an immediate danger and Mr. Andrews was working on making repairs.
Like Mr. Andrews, Ms. Camella Batten was hosed and bulldozed. She had a $3,000 water bill for a property that didn’t even exist because the City demolished it.
We submitted a public records request for Mr. Andrews’ demolition documents. All we received was a two page inspection report and some pictures of his damaged garage. Missing was proof of permits and documentation that he had been notified via certified mail.
We asked the City for a statement about why it didn’t follow its own procedures. The City said it warned him by posting a notice on his garage door. Mr. Andrews says he never saw the notice. The City also said Mr. Andrews only had three days to oppose the demolition and fight it via an administrative hearing. But Mr. Andrews had already won an administrative hearing for this very issue back in September.
And although the City said it couldn’t mail Mr. Andrews a warning about the demolition, it did mail him a bill for it in the amount of $2,126.90.