CHICAGO - A week before the deadline for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to answer questions under oath in a Chicago police whistleblower lawsuit, lawyers for the city are asking a judge to block the deposition.
Cook County Judge Thomas Donnelly last month ordered Lightfoot to sit for a one-hour deposition with lawyers for Chicago police Officer Isaac Lambert, who claims he was demoted by the department after he refused a superior’s request to lie to protect a fellow officer involved in the 2017 shooting of an unarmed autistic teen.
The deposition was to take place by Oct. 15, but lawyers for the city have filed a motion asking Donnelly to reverse his order from September. A hearing on the motion is set for Oct. 11.
Lightfoot will not be able to provide information relevant to Lambert’s case, city lawyers said in their motion.
"This alone should warrant protecting the mayor from an unnecessary oral interrogation, brought for no articulable reason other than to harass and inconvenience the highest elected official in the third-largest city in the nation," the filing states.
In 2016, Lightfoot chaired then Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force, a blue-ribbon panel set up to investigate the Chicago Police Department soon after the release of video showing CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. Among the findings in a report issued in 2016 was that a "code of silence" existed within the department and was a key factor in the CPD’s inability to hold officers accountable for misconduct.
In 2017, Sgt. Khalil Muhammad shot 18-year-old Ricardo Hayes near his home in Morgan Park. Lambert said he refused superiors’ requests to change reports to say that Muhammad was a "victim" of an aggravated assault by Hayes, his lawsuit states.
Video of the shooting shows Hayes running and skipping near Muhammad’s home as Muhammad was driving home after his shift. Muhammad allegedly called the teenager to come toward his car, then shot twice from inside his vehicle, hitting the teen twice. Five days after the final draft was submitted by detectives, nearly two years after the shooting, Lambert’s supervisor told him he was being sent to the patrol division, according to the lawsuit.
When Lambert asked why he was being transferred in what he considered a demotion, the supervisor told him it was an order from Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples. The commander of detectives for Area South, Rodney Blisset, also has sued the department, claiming that he too was demoted after he denied to a city attorney that he had ordered Lambert’s transfer.
The city paid $2.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Hayes, who was struck twice by bullets fired by Muhammad. Muhammad was given a six-month suspension for the shooting, a punishment that Lightfoot, while she was running for mayor in 2019, said was too lenient.