Illinois AG files first hate crime lawsuit in state

Illinois Attorney General's Building in Springfield. Photo by Tom Wray
The Illinois Attorney General's building in Springfield. Photo by Tom Wray

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced on Wednesday the filing of the office’s first-ever hate crime lawsuit.

A press release from the off said the lawsuit was filed against two white Carroll County residents who allegedly spent months intimidating their neighbor, who is a Black man. Raoul alleges the harassment culminated with the defendants using a noose to lynch an effigy of their neighbor from a tree in their front yard.

The case marks the first time Raoul has utilized expanded authority granted to his office under a 2018 amendment to the Illinois Hate Crimes Act that allows for civil lawsuits against perpetrators of hate crimes.

Raoul filed the lawsuit in the 15th Judicial Circuit, Carroll County against Chad Hampton, 45, of Victoria, Illinois and his mother, Cheryl Hampton, 67, of Streator. The complaint alleges the two committed a hate crime by intimidation and disorderly conduct, and the lawsuit seeks civil penalties and equitable relief. Separately, the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s office has charged Chad Hampton with criminal destruction of property and Cheryl Hampton with criminal harassment of a witness.

“Our complaint alleges the defendants intentionally used the shameful history of lynching and racism in America to terrorize and instill fear in their next-door neighbor simply because he is Black. No one should be subjected to this kind of hate,” Raoul said in the release. “I am committed to continuing to partner with law enforcement agencies across Illinois to prosecute hate crimes and send a message that hate and bigotry of any kind are not welcome and will not be tolerated.”

According to Raoul’s lawsuit, Chad and Cheryl Hampton allegedly engaged in months of racist behavior aimed at intimidating their neighbor, Gregory Johnson. The harassment reportedly culminated with an effigy of a Black man hanging from a tree in front of Johnson’s home.

“I looked out of my new home at a Black-faced mannequin shackled and lynched on a tree branch, the N-word scrawled upon a window, and swastikas,” Johnson said in the press release. “Our American flag was replaced with their Confederate flag.”

Raoul filed the lawsuit following a hate crimes investigation by his office’s Civil Rights Bureau with assistance by the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s office, the city of Savanna, and the Savanna Police Department.

The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau enforces state and federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes and discrimination in Illinois. Members of the public are encouraged to report discrimination or hate crimes by emailing [email protected] or by calling the Civil Rights Hotline at 1-877-581-3692.

The case is being handled by Public Interest Division Chief Christopher G. Wells, Bureau Chief Amy Meek and Assistant Attorney General Alison Hill for the Civil Rights Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Jordan for the Special Litigation Bureau.