Adam Hollingsworth, also known as Chicago’s “Census Cowboy” and the “Dreadhead Cowboy,” has seemingly taken on a new role since being charged with animal cruelty last September: “Attorney Cowboy.” And it’s kinda weird.
The 34-year-old splashed onto the scene in a mayoral news conference last year in which Mayor Lori Lightfoot said he would be patrolling neighborhoods on horseback to drive up the city’s census response rate. But public opinion of Hollingsworth shifted in September after he allegedly forced one of his horses to gallop in the Dan Ryan Expressway’s traffic lanes until — according to prosecutors — the animal nearly died of exhaustion.
Facing one felony count of aggravated animal cruelty, Hollingsworth ditched his attorneys months ago and has been serving as his own lawyer during court appearances, most recently on Friday.
The hearings, which are streamed on YouTube, are must-see viewing for fans of inexpensive entertainment.
On March 9, Judge Michael McHale questioned Hollingsworth about Facebook posts that indicated he might be taking a trip to Las Vegas or be around horses again, activities that are prohibited while he awaits trial. Hollingsworth said the posts weren’t true, saying he made them to get a reaction from prosecutors.
In another Facebook post, Hollingsworth mentioned the prosecutor on his case, Christina Dracopoulos, by name and gave her the finger. “Christina, f*ck you,” the budding barrister said.
McHale threatened to hold Hollingsworth in contempt of court if he posted false information or other “unprofessional” videos while the case is pending.
Hollingsworth, McHale, and Dracopoulos got together for another hearing Friday.
“Do you have video, Mr. Hollingsworth?” McHale asked as the hearing began, but the cowboy only came through via audio. “Can we see a video of you?”
“OK,” Hollingsworth said. “Let me put a shirt on, your honor.”
McHale noted that Hollingsworth exercised some legal muscles by filing “something” with the court that has “all kinds of titles all over it.”
Rather than classify the six-page, legal-sized document, McHale started reading from it.
“Notice to the principal is notice to the agent. Notice to the agent is notice to the principal. Cook County Circuit Court Criminal Division. People of the State of Illinois. Illinois State Police. Chicago Police. Plaintiff of colorable fiction of law versus Adam Hollingsworth.,” the judge began before stopping to summarize the rest of the document.
“You raise issues about taxes. About contracts. Treason and sedition. Treaties between countries, federally funded highways, licensing issues, [and] whether or not you need a permit to protest on a highway,” McHale said.
“You are charged with one count of aggravated cruelty to animals,” the judge continued, calling Hollingsworth’s filing “completely irrelevant.”
But the strangest moments were saved for the end of Friday’s hearing after the parties tended to some actual business about exchanges of evidence and the like.
“Anything else, Mr. Hollingsworth?” McHale asked.
There was something else.
“Is it — horses is the only animals that I can’t be around?” Hollingsworth inquires.
“Right,” McHale confirmed. “I didn’t say any other animals. Right. Just horse…”
“Other farm animals? I’m allowed to be around them?”
Prosecutor Dracopoulos could be seen bravely biting her lip in an effort to contain her laughter.
“Yes, you are. Yeah. I said no horses. So. Dogs, cats, goats, pigs, yeah…”
“Donkeys?” Hollingsworth asked. “Mules?”
“Mmm, Mister— I guess they aren’t technically horses,” McHale agreed as Dracopoulso covered her mouth with her hand and began shaking with laughter.
“You’re right sir,” the judge agreed. “Ok. Sure. Just no horses.”
“I really don’t want to get into splitting hairs about donkeys and mules and burros and anything else, Ok. So, please just behave wisely…No HORSES.”
“Yes, sir,” Hollingsworth acknowledged.
“No ponies, either,” McHale warned.
“I know. A pony is a horse,” Hollingsworth agreed as another defendant on the Zoom call — seated in the Cook County Jail — rocks back and forth in laughter, shaking his head.
“Right. I just wanted to make that clear.”
The Dreadhead legal circus will resume on July 1.