A 26-year Chicago police officer paid for sex with underage teen runaways at parties, in his apartment and even in his vehicle while riding around with his partner, federal prosecutors say.
Officer William Whitley took graphic photos of many of the girls on top of his leopard-print bedspread and had their numbers stored in his phone under names such as “Bunny” and “Mocha” and “Jasmine.”
One girl, who was just 14 and wore braces, told authorities Whitley had sex with her while his Chicago police uniform hung on his bedroom door and his handgun was under the pillow, according to prosecutors.
Whitley was arrested Tuesday afternoon on his way to work at a police non-emergency call center, where he’d been reassigned to paid desk duty amid the ongoing probe. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars and as much as life imprisonment if convicted of sex trafficking of a minor. He was also charged with production of child pornography stemming from an investigation first revealed by the Tribune more than a year ago.
While Whitley was not accused of pimping any of the girls, a 21-page criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday alleged Whitley had attended parties as part of a sex ring arranged by an acquaintance where numerous older men would pay teen runaways for sex.
Sources told the Tribune that a former Chicago police officer — identified in the complaint only as Individual B — is still under investigation for participating in the scheme.
Whitley, 60, appeared in court Wednesday dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and thin spectacles, his hair graying at the temples. After prosecutors raised concerns he could flee if released from custody, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez ordered him held without bond pending a detention hearing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse next week.
Whitley, who worked for years as a patrol officer in the Wentworth District on the city’s South Side, was stripped of his police powers in September 2015 amid the federal probe.
Police complaint data released by the city show Whitley has at least 28 complaints against him dating to 1991 for violations ranging from use of profanity to neglect of duty. The department ordered a suspension in seven of the cases, although it’s unclear from the data whether Whitley wound up serving the punishment.
According to federal court records, Whitley has been sued twice in the past six years for wrongful arrest. But he was dismissed from one case before trial, and a jury found in his favor in the other case, records show.
The sex trafficking investigation began in September 2015 when an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a john contacted the 14-year-old victim, identified in the complaint as Minor A, who had posted a sex ad on the classified website Backpage.com, according to the complaint.
The girl was arrested at a location on West 15th Street in Chicago after agreeing to have sex for $160, according to the complaint. She agreed to cooperate with law enforcement.
The girl told authorities she had been introduced to Whitley by Individual A — later identified as the woman who hosted the sex parties. She said Whitley, whom she knew as “Will,” had paid her at least five times for sex in his apartment over the past several months, the charges alleged.
She initially lied to Whitley and told him she was 23, though at the time she had “metal braces on her teeth,” the complaint alleged. Although he initially hid the fact that he was an officer, Whitley eventually bragged about it, showing her a gold chain around his neck with the department logo on it, prosecutors said.
Data recovered from the girl’s phone showed Whitley had called or texted her hundreds of times, including one exchange Sept. 17, 2015, when Whitley asked her in a text to come over for sex “B4 I gotta work,” according to the complaint.
“What time you gotta go to work cause im bout to jump in the shower now,” the girl texted back, according to the complaint. “2:00p.” Whitley allegedly replied.
Authorities also found six photos on the girl’s phone depicting her and another girl naked on Whitley’s bed in compromising positions. The leopard-print bedding seen in the photos was the same pattern found in Whitley’s apartment during a search in October 2015, records show.
Interviews with the 14-year-old girl led authorities to another victim, identified in the complaint as Minor B, who said she met Whitley at a sex party hosted by Individual A shortly after she ran away from home at age 15. Whitley paid to have sex with Minor B at the party, and soon he was one of her regular customers, according to the complaint.
One day, Minor B was walking with a friend in the Englewood neighborhood when Whitley pulled up in a vehicle and asked if she wanted to take a ride with him and “his partner,” prosecutors alleged. While they rode around, she performed a sex act on Whitley for about $65. Over the next few months, she gave Whitley’s number out to other girls who also charged him for sex acts, the complaint alleged.
Minor B said she never talked about her age with Whitley but believed he “knew she was young” in part because she was inexperienced, the charges alleged. The first time he paid her for a sex act, Whitley “had to guide her,” the complaint alleged.
Whitley told agents who searched his apartment in October 2015 that he didn’t know Minor A’s age and that he’d only had sex with her once. He denied knowing Minor B, according to the complaint.