Adam Hollingsworth, who rode to 15 minutes of fame as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “Census Cowboy” three years ago, only to fall from glory by riding his horse to exhaustion on the Dan Ryan Expressway, is facing new legal troubles today.
Hollingsworth, 36, was arrested Thursday after he “threw an elbow,” striking a Hammond, Indiana, police officer who asked him to stop riding his horse down the city’s main thoroughfare, Indianapolis Boulevard, the city’s police department said in a statement. And, like Hollingsworth’s previous brushes with law enforcement, his arrest was live-streamed on Facebook, where he is known as the “Dreadhead Cowboy.”
Region News Source first reported the arrest.
“Police advised Mr. Hollingsworth numerous times that it was against city ordinance to have, possess, or ride a horse within city limits,” Hammond PD said in a statement provided by Region News Source. “Mr. Hollingsworth attempted to get on his horse and police attempted to stop him. At this point, Mr. Hollingsworth threw an elbow, striking one of the police officers. He was then arrested for battery on a police officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct.”
Shortly before being arrested, Hollingsworth told a patrol officer to “get a white shirt here,” using the slang term for Chicago police supervisors, who wear white uniform shirts.
“This ain’t Chicago,” the Hammond cop replies before introducing Hollingsworth to a Hammond police sergeant.
Asked repeatedly why he couldn’t ride a horse down the street, a patrol officer advised Hollingsworth that a horse “is not a vehicle … this ain’t ancient times.”
The officers told Hollingsworth that if he brought the horse to Hammond for an event, he was welcome to take it into the venue. But, they insisted, the animal cannot be ridden on the public way.
Officers arrested Hollingsworth moments later as he stood next to the horse.
“You want attention?” an officer asked. “You got it. You goin’ to jail.”
After Hollingsworth was secured inside a patrol car, bystanders argued that he wasn’t on the horse when police arrested him. The cops countered that he wasn’t arrested or cited for riding the horse.
An officer explained that first responders had received “more than one call” of someone riding a horse on the street.
“I have two videos from people that came out of House of Pizza and showed a video of him riding that horse down Indianapolis Boulevard,” a cop noted.
Calling out the Census Cowboy
Lightfoot introduced Hollingsworth to Chicago as the “Census Cowboy” during a July 2020 press conference as she pushed city residents to return their census surveys during the throes of the COVID pandemic.
“I’m happy to report I’m calling out the Census Cowboy,” Lightfoot told banks of news cameras as she donned a neon green cowboy hat and Hollingsworth rode into view.
“If you see the Census Cowboy come into your neighborhood, that’s not a good thing,” Lightfoot advised viewers.
But the stunt soured for Lightfoot a few weeks later when Hollingsworth took a horse named NuNu on a 7-mile gallop on the Dan Ryan Expressway, supposedly to raise awareness of the horribly violent conditions some Chicago children face.
Officials said NuNu’s heart was racing at twice its normal rate, and its eyes were so dilated, they “looked like cartoon eyes,” after Hollingsworth finally brought it to a stop. NuNu collapsed at one point, but Hollingsworth whipped it to keep it moving, a Cook County prosecutor said while detailing animal abuse allegations against Hollingsworth during a felony bail hearing days later.
The prosecutor alleged that two veterinarians who later examined the horse said it “suffered greatly, bled profusely,” collapsed repeatedly, and was not correctly saddled and cushioned.
One veterinarian told investigators that NuNu’s treatment was equivalent to “making an 80-year-old woman run a full marathon,” said the prosecutor.
But Hollingsworth disputed the state’s allegations and insisted that the horse was not mistreated.
The attorney cowboy
Facing a felony charge of aggravated animal cruelty, Hollingsworth ditched his attorneys and served as his own lawyer during court appearances, frequently twisting the proceedings into scenes better suited for a circus sideshow than a court of law.
During one hearing, Judge Michael McHale questioned Hollingsworth about Facebook posts that indicated he might be taking a trip to Las Vegas or be around horses again, prohibited activities while he awaited 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 was pending.
Two months later, Hollingsworth and McHale grappled over McHale’s demand that Hollingsworth stay away from horses while on bail.
“Is it — horses is the only animals that I can’t be around?” Hollingsworth inquired.
“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 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.
“Right. I just wanted to make that clear.”
In January 2022, Hollingsworth finally pleaded guilty in exchange for a one-year sentence from McHale. The prison time was offset by the days Hollingsworth spent on electronic monitoring.