Judicial Watch: Contempt Hearing Monday, August 21, Seeking Information about Laquan McDonald Shooting from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Office
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced a hearing will be held on August 21, 2017, regarding an Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Office of the Mayor seeking “all records of communications” concerning the police dash cam videos of the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald.
The court hearing is scheduled for:
Date: Monday, August 21
Time: 10 am CT/ 11 am ET
Location: Courtroom 2502
Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division
Richard J. Daley Center
The Judicial Watch lawsuit was filed after Emanuel’s office failed to respond to a December 2, 2015, FOIA request seeking the following:
[A]ll records of communications of officials within the Office of the Mayor – including, but not limited to, Mayor Rahm Emanuel – concerning the police dash camera recordings of the October 20, 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. The request also specified that such communication would include discussions about the release of any such video recording to the public and that the time frame of the request is from October 20, 2014 until the date of the request.
The Mayor’s office eventually responded to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request in January 2016 and attempted to have the case dismissed. Judicial Watch argued the case should not be dismissed because the Mayor’s Office had not conducted a thorough search for records. The court agreed. During a September 2016 hearing, the court concluded that the Mayor’s Office’s search was insufficient and ordered the Mayor’s Office to work with Judicial Watch in defining search terms and to subsequently search for additional records.
On November 3, 2016, Judicial Watch was informed that the searches yielded over 900,000 emails.
The Mayor’s Office, however, then ignored and continues to ignore the court’s September 2016 ruling. In January 2017, Judicial Watch asked the court to find the Mayor’s Office in contempt.
Judicial Watch argued that the Mayor’s Office failed to respond to Judicial Watch’s questions about how the Mayor’s Office conducts searches for emails, what its capabilities are, and which proposed search terms could be used. Judicial Watch was also concerned about the use of non-government email accounts. Judicial Watch wrote:
[Judicial Watch] subsequently followed up with Defendants by email on November 16, 2016, November 28, 2016, and December 6, 2016 relative to all of the above issues. To date, Defendant has not responded to [Judicial Watch] let alone answer any of the questions [Judicial Watch] has posed concerning Defendants’ search efforts.
Because Defendants have failed to respond to [Judicial Watch’s] inquires, [Judicial Watch] cannot comply with the Court’s September 23, 2016 order. In addition, Defendants’ failure to respond to [Judicial Watch’s] inquiries violates the Court’s order.
In June 2017, the Mayor’s Office offered Judicial Watch limited cooperation with a partial and inadequate production of documents. Due to a continued lack of cooperation from the Mayor’s Office, in July Judicial Watch again asked the court to find the Mayor’s office in contempt.
[Judicial Watch] has followed up with Defendants by email on June 28, 2017, July 10, 2017, and July 17, 2017 relative to all of the above issues. Defendants did not respond to any of these emails.
Judicial Watch argues that the conduct of the Mayor’s Office “is willful and malicious and in contempt of the order.”
“A young man died in Chicago under what can only be termed the most suspicious of circumstances,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Rahm Emanuel’s office had a vested interest in stalling the release of the video and to this day unquestionably is refusing to comply with a court order that paves the way to the release of communications regarding the tragedy.”
Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old youth armed with a knife, was shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014. The video of the shooting captured on one police cruiser’s dashboard camera was not released to the public until November 24, 2015 – more than 13 months later. Considerable controversy has arisen over whether Emanuel may have participated in a cover-up of the video until after his hotly contested re-election as mayor in in April 2015.
Christine Svenson of Svenson Law Offices in Chicago, IL, is representing Judicial Watch.