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Skokie cop charged with shoving woman at police station

Updated: October 30, 2013 10:50PM

A north suburban police officer was charged with two felonies for allegedly shoving a woman accused of DUI in the police station lock-up earlier this year, causing serious injuries to her face.

Skokie Police officer Michael Hart, 43, was charged Wednesday with aggravated battery and official misconduct, both felonies, according to a statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

Hart was assisting with fingerprinting and photographing 47-year-old Cassandra Feuerstein on the morning of March 10, after she was arrested earlier that morning for DUI, authorities said.

During the booking process, Hart “became irate” with Feuerstein when she repeatedly refused to look at a specific location on a camera lens for him to take a booking photo, prosecutors allege.

Hart grabbed her “forcibly” by the arm and pulled her towards an open cell, where she tried to use both hands to grab the sides of the doorway, regain her balance and ask for another photo, prosecutors said.

Hart then put both of his hands on her back and pushed her “forcefully” into the cell, prosecutors allege. She was propelled across the cell, and her head slammed face-first into an unpadded concrete bench.

Feuerstein suffered a fractured right orbital bone, loosened teeth, and a deep cut on her cheek. She required reconstructive surgery after the incident, including placement of a titanium plate in her cheek. Prosecutors say she still suffers vision and dental problems.

All of the events were recorded by video surveillance cameras in the station, prosecutors said.

“It is a sad and difficult day in law enforcement when an incident such as this occurs and criminal charges are warranted,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in the statement.

“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,” Alvarez said.

Hart, who has been an officer on the Skokie force since 1994, faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Feuerstein, of West Rogers Park, pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to one year of supervision and a fine of about $1,600, according to court records. A resisting arrest charge and three traffic citations were dropped.

Feuerstein filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Oct. 10, alleging that Hart used excessive force during her arrest.

The suit claimed Hart made false statements to others at the department, erroneously accusing Feurstein of resisting efforts to be escorted into a cell. Feuerstein’s lawyer subpoenaed the footage of the incident, which show a man in a police uniform pushing her into a cell, causing her head to strike a concrete bench.

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

“The Village of Skokie expresses deep concern for Ms. Cassandra Feuerstein’s injuries that occurred at the Skokie Police Station earlier this year,” Skokie village manager Albert J. Rigoni said in a statement issued when the lawsuit was filed.

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