Skokie cop charged with 2 felonies for shoving woman

Skokie cop charged with 2 felonies for shoving woman

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SKOKIE, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

A north suburban police officer charged with two felonies for shoving a woman in a police station lock-up earlier this year, causing serious injuries to her face, has been put on leave by the department.

Video from the Skokie police station last March shows 47-year-old Cassandra Feuerstein in police custody, after her arrest for drunk driving. Three weeks ago, The Loop receptionist filed a Civil Rights lawsuit against Officer Michael Hart, claiming the Skokie cop shoved her into a holding cell, face first, into a concrete bench. Now, the officer faces criminal charges of aggravated battery and official misconduct.

State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says she knows that a policeman's job is a tough one, but sometimes a cop does the cross the line and that's what happened in the Skokie lockup last March.

"When defendants are in a police station, they are there under the control of the police, but they are also under the care of the police, and we believe that Officer Hart stepped over that line," Alvarez says.

Feuerstein suffered broken bones in her face and needed reconstructive surgery, including a titanium cheek. Her attorney says the airing of the video has produced support for Feuerstein, even from police officers.

"Police officers have reached out to me, police officers from all over the county to express support for Cassandra, and apologize, and say, this is not how we all are," plaintiff's attorney Torri Hamilton explains.

That's not how Hart is either, according to his defense attorney, Jed Stone. Stone says Hart is a 19-year veteran with an excellent record who treats people with respect and that additional videos will show Feuerstein was combative during her time in the lockup. Stone says she may have merely fallen toward that concrete bench after letting go of her tight grip on the door, making this an unfortunate accident, not a crime.

"It is likely that she lost her balance than was thrown, as you say, or tossed into the room," says Stone. "We will not know the truth until we analyze all of the evidence from all of the angles."

The state's attorney says the evidence shows otherwise.

"There is some evidence that she wasn't cooperating with sitting down to get her booking photo taken, but if that is true, it still does not warrant the actions of the police officer and force that he pushed her into that lockup area," Alvarez counters.

Officer Hart had been assigned to desk duty during Skokie's internal investigation of the incident, but the village now says he's been placed on paid leave and relieved of his police powers.

Hart's next court appearance was set for Nov. 20 in Branch 98 at 26th and California, Gordon said.

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