Four in court over 'despicable' attack streamed on Facebook
Four people charged over an attack on a mentally disabled teenager which was broadcast live on Facebook have appeared in court in Chicago.
Eighteen-year-olds Brittany Covington, Tesfaye Cooper and Jordan Hill, and 24-year-old Tanishia Covington each face hate crime, kidnapping and battery charges in connection with the attack on the 18-year-old man. All four suspects are black and the victim is white.
Authorities said the suspects assaulted the teenager, threatening him with a knife and taunting him with profanities against white people and President-elect Donald Trump.
Video of the incident was captured on a mobile phone by one of the alleged assailants and viewed by millions on social media.
In court today Cook County Associate Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil denied a bond for the suspects and asked them: "Where was your sense of decency?"
Earlier police said the parents of the teenager received text messages while he was missing from someone claiming to be holding him captive.
The family had reported him missing on Monday in Streamwood, a Chicago suburb.
The parents said they had not heard from their son since New Year's Eve, when he said he was going to stay over at a friend's house. His mother told police she feared her son had not taken medication for a mental health disorder.
Streamwood police said the parents later "began receiving text messages from persons claiming to be holding him captive".
While investigating the messages, officers discovered the Facebook video. Chicago police later reported the man had been located.
Police said the investigation is continuing and have not said who may have sent the messages.
"This should never have happened," David Boyd, the victim's brother-in-law, said at a news conference in Chicago. He said the victim was traumatised but doing as well as could be expected.
Neal Strom, a family spokesman, said the teenager has had "profound emotional and physical disabilities throughout his life".
The cruelty of the attack and the intense social media exposure prompted President Barack Obama to respond, calling it "despicable".
"I take these things very seriously," he told Chicago's WBBM-TV. But he said the incident does not mean race relations have got worse.
"We see visuals of racial tensions, violence and so forth because of smartphones and the internet and media ... a lot of the problems that have been there a long time," he said.
Excerpts of the video posted by Chicago media outlets show the victim with his mouth taped shut and slumped in a corner of a room. At least two assailants are seen cutting off his sweatshirt, and others taunt him off camera.
The video shows a wound on the top of the man's head. One person pushes the man's head with his or her foot.
A red band also appears to be around the victim's hands. He was tied up for four to five hours, authorities said.
In court prosecutors said one of the suspects demanded 300 dollars (£244) from the victim's mother.
They said the attack started in a van and the beating continued at a house. Prosecutors alleged the suspects forced the victim to drink toilet water and kiss the floor.
They said the suspects also stuffed a sock into his mouth, taped his mouth shut and bound his hands with a belt.
The court was told the victim suffers from schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder.