Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez' office has charged Skokie Police Officer Michael Hart with felony charges of aggravated battery and official misconduct after a March 10 incident in which he forcibly shoved Cassandra Feuerstein, who was undergoing processing at the police station, into a cement bench, shattering bones and resulting in severe injuries, Alvarez' office said.
Skokie officials responded shortly afterward with a statement they were placing Hart on administrative leave and are continuing their internal investigation, which could result in disciplinary action.
Following is the statement from Alvarez' office.
A Skokie police officer has been arrested and is facing felony criminal charges in connection with an incident in which the officer is captured on videotape forcibly shoving a female arrestee into a jail cell resulting in significant injuries to the woman including facial fractures that required reconstructive surgery as well as vision and dental problems, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced today.
Michael Hart, 43, of Gurnee, Illinois, was charged today with the felony offenses of Aggravated Battery and Official Misconduct in connection with the incident. Hart will appear in bond court today at the George Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. He has been employed as a full time Skokie police officer since 1994.
According to prosecutors, the incident occurred on the morning of March 10, 2013 at the Skokie Police Department, where Hart was on duty and assisting in the fingerprinting and photographing of a 47-year-old female who was in custody after having been arrested by Skokie police officers on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol earlier that morning.
During the booking process Hart “became irate” with the female detainee when she repeatedly disregarded his command to look at a specific location on a camera lens in order to allow him to take an arrest and booking photo of the defendant.
After the woman disobeyed Hart’s final command, the officer grabbed her forcibly by the arm and pulled her towards an open detention cell. At the entrance of the cell, the detainee attempted to use both hands to grasp the sides of the doorway, regain her balance and request that she have another opportunity to be photographed. At that point, Officer Hart, who was behind the detainee, is alleged to have put both of his hands on the woman’s back and pushed her forcefully into the cell.
According to prosecutors, the force of the shove propelled the woman across the cell causing her face and head to slam into an unpadded concrete bench. The face-first impact with the concrete fractured the woman’s right orbital bone, loosened some of her teeth and opened a deep cut on her cheek. The orbital fracture required reconstructive surgery during which a titanium plate was inserted in the woman’s cheek. She also suffers vision and dental problems as a result of the incident.
All of the events were captured and recorded by video surveillance cameras mounted throughout the Skokie police station.
“It is a sad and difficult day in law enforcement when an incident such as this occurs and criminal charges are warranted,” said State’s Attorney Alvarez. “We recognize that police officers have difficult jobs and work under challenging circumstances, but every law enforcement officer holds his or her powers through the public trust and this senseless act constitutes a violation of that trust.”
The investigation was conducted by the State’s Attorney’s Special Prosecutions Bureau as part of ongoing efforts to monitor and investigate police misconduct and public corruption. If convicted, Hart faces a sentence that ranges from a term of probation to up to five years in prison. State’s Attorney Alvarez thanked the Skokie Police Department for their cooperation in the investigation.
The public is reminded that criminal charging documents contain allegations that are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.