Former Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson sued for alleged sexual misconduct

Then- Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson talks at police headquarters, Nov. 7, 2019. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
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By Megan Crepeau, Annie Sweeney and Gregory PrattĀ Chicago Tribune (TNS)

CHICAGO _ A Chicago police officer accused of evidence tampering in an investigation of ex-Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s conduct had in fact been the victim of Johnson’s “shockingly violent” sexual abuse for more than three years, according to a lawsuit filed late Wednesday.

Cynthia Donald, Johnson’s former driver, said it was the former superintendent who destroyed evidence, in order to cover up his sexual conduct and harassment of her while he was under scrutiny for the scandal that led to his firing last year.

For years, Donald alleges, Johnson raped her, including in his personal office at police headquarters; sent her nude photos of himself; and pressured her into complying with his sexual advances by promising her promotions within the department.

Donald, who was assigned as Johnson’s driver, was with him at a restaurant in October 2019 just before he was found asleep at the wheel of a city vehicle, allegedly after a night of drinking.

As the city Inspector General’s office was investigating the incident, Donald was accused of destroying a SIM card on her cellphone, which was wanted as evidence in the probe.

But, Donald’s suit alleges, it was in fact Johnson who destroyed evidence, including tampering with his own cellphone, in order to cover up the evidence of his conduct with her.

Lawyers for Donald are scheduled to brief the media on the lawsuit Thursday afternoon.

Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment and a lawyer for him was not immediately available.

The suit comes a day after it was revealed officers are facing suspension for their roles in the incident where Johnson was found asleep at the wheel of a city vehicle after visiting a downtown bar.

It was that incident which eventually led to Johnson’s dismissal by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The lawsuit also alleges that Lightfoot “worked to deflect blame” from the city over the incident and ordered Johnson to “dump” Donald by removing her from his detail and sending her to a police district.

Johnson declined, sending her to the records department instead so she could remain nearby in police headquarters, the lawsuit alleges.

Johnson referred to Lightfoot as “That b—-” and said she was trying to steal his “music” _ meaning Donald, according to the lawsuit.

Lightfoot’s office did not immediately have a comment.

The lawsuit paints a picture of Johnson as a serial assailant, jealous and manipulative, who would brag about the female officers who wanted to give him sexual favors in exchange for promotions and pressured Donald to do the same.

Johnson’s first alleged assault on Donald occurred in his office in mid-2016, according to the suit, which states that he forced oral sex on her. The incidents of abuse were “regular and frequent” after that, until his firing late last year.

After learning last year that Donald was interested in taking the test for promotion to sergeant, he pressured her into studying for it and said she needed to “stay on his good side” if she wanted a chance at a merit promotion.

He once told her “the list of favors” she owed him “was growing longer with each person he moved to a different unit to clear the way for (Donald) to be promoted to Sergeant,” according to the lawsuit. “In exchange, Superintendent Johnson demanded that Plaintiff “pay up soon.”

A few days after Johnson was found asleep behind the wheel, Donald was reassigned from her security detail to the department’s Evidence and Recovered Property section housed at the Homan Square facility on the West Side, records show. But shortly after that, on Nov 1, she went on paid medical leave after falling off a chair in a Records Section office at police headquarters.

Donald, 45, has worked as a Chicago police officer since November 2006, records show.

She has received at least 22 awards from the department, including eight honorable mentions and a commendation.

In 2011, the department moved to fire Donald on allegations from one of her supervisors that almost three years earlier she lied about circumstances to acquire death-in-family benefits and take bereavement leave from work after claiming a close relative had died. Records show she was accused of claiming her “father-in-law” died even though she was not married.

In an August 2008 interview with an investigator from CPD’s internal affairs division, Donald claimed that she had disclosed to the department that person who died was her fiance’s father, and she thought that would still make her she eligible for bereavement leave. Donald beat the case after the Chicago Police Board found there was no evidence of wrongdoing on her part, according to records.

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