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One of the 30 black persons whose photos and other information were released to the public via social media last week has sued the Evanston Police Department, the City of Evanston, Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook in his official capacity and Chief Cook personally.
The suit, filed on Feb. 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by attorney Ilia Usharovich, alleges civil rights and Constitutional violations and requests a trial by jury.
The suit alleges that in late January, Chief Cook either made or allowed to be made a set of 30 photographs of black persons, most of them male, along with the date of birth, last known address and, in some cases, a nickname of the person. Two words are handwritten next to the plaintiff’s photo: “Pending” appears alongside the last known address, and “HIV” is written next to the photo, one letter below the other.
The suit alleges that all the photographs with that information were posted in a room in the Evanston Police Station and that the police made no effort to keep the room private nor the information confidential.
Later, according to the allegations, Chief Cook recorded the information on a camera or similar device and posted the photos and other information to his Snapchat account.
The Plaintiff states that he is not HIV positive and that he and his girlfriend, who is the mother of his two children and pregnant with a third, both subsequently underwent HIV/AIDS testing and that the results of each were negative.
The Plaintiff also alleges that, since the information was put onto social media, it has been downloaded and remains on permanent devices. He further alleges that he has been defamed, that he and his family have suffered emotional distress embarrassment, and that he has been bullied on social media.
Attached to the complaint are screen shots of the 30 photos Chief Cook posted and comments from social media about the Plaintiff.
The complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and his right to privacy. It also alleges defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of Plaintiff’s rights to privacy, due process and individual integrity under the Illinois Constitution.
The suit seeks $1 million in damages, punitive damages, costs, attorney’s fees for each of the seven counts of the complaint, along with any other relief the Court sees fit to award.
At a press conference on Feb. 21, Chief Cook admitted to posting the information to his Snapchat account, saying it was “inadvertent” but there was “no excuse” for it.