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Woman sues Skokie Police, alleges cop threw her into concrete bench

Updated: October 10, 2013 12:15PM

A Chicago woman charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and obstructing a peace officer in March claims in a lawsuit that a Skokie Police officer used excessive force.

In her civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Cassandra Feuerstein, 47, of West Rogers Park, claims that Skokie Police Officer Michael Hart used excessive force when she was arrested.

“At the door of the open jail cell, defendant Hart gave plaintiff a violent shove in the back, using both of his hands,” according the lawsuit. “Defendant Hart used so much force in doing this that plaintiff was flung across the cell head first into a cement bench at the far side of the cell.”

The suit states that Feuerstein’s face “split open” and she began to bleed profusely. She broke several bones in her face, her lawyer said. The lawsuit also claims that Hart made false statements to others at the Skokie Police Department, erroneously accusing her of resisting efforts to be escorted into a jail cell.

Feuerstein’s lawyer, Torreya Hamilton, subpoenaed footage from video cameras at the Skokie Police station. The video shows a man in a police uniform pushing her into a cell and then her head striking a concrete bench.

“He whips her through the door and into the cell,” Hamilton said. “There was no threat to any of the police officers. It’s clear on the video that the [behavior] was indefensible.”

Feuerstein underwent facial reconstruction surgery and now has a titanium plate in her face. All of the teeth on the right side of her mouth are loose, Hamilton said. The full extent of the damage is not yet known, she said.

The lawsuit doesn’t ask for a specific amount in damages. The lawsuit states Feuerstein is seeking “a fair and just amount sufficient to compensate her for her damages, as well as such other relief as is just and equitable.”

The Skokie police report of Feuerstein’s arrest states that she was parked in the middle of an intersection in the 3900 block of Howard Street on the morning of March 10. She was slumped over inside her vehicle with her right foot resting on the brake pedal, police said.

Feuerstein pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, Hamilton said Wednesday. The charge of obstructing a police officer was dismissed during the criminal trial. Judge Jeffrey L. Warnick sentenced her to one year of court-ordered supervision and ordered her to pay a roughly $1,600 fine, according to court records. The resisting arrest charge against and three other traffic citations were dropped, records showed.

Hamilton said her client had no previous interactions with police and this was her first DUI.

“She cooperated with the Breathalyzer and admits she was driving after she had been drinking,” Hamilton said.

On Wednesday, Skokie Police said the village had not yet been served with the lawsuit. Hamilton said that will happen within the next week.

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