A Skokie police officer is charged with two felonies for allegedly shoving a woman accused of DUI in the police station lock-up. The woman suffered serious injuries to her face. NBC5’s Kim Vatis reports.
A Skokie police officer is facing felony charges after he was arrested in connection to claims the officer used excessive force after a Chicago woman was arrested for DUI.
Michael Hart, 43, of Gurnee, was charged Wednesday with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct after he was captured on videotape forcibly shoving a female inmate into a jail cell, shattering several bones in the woman’s face, according to a release from the state's attorney's office.
Skokie officials said the 19-year veteran was placed on administrative leave as the village finalizes its internal investigation.
"We have said before that the village is deeply concerned about the injuries suffered by a woman in the custody of the Skokie Police Department," Skokie Village Manager Al Rigoni said in a statement. "Now, with the completion of the state's investigation and decision to file charges against the officer, we are able to complete our internal investigation before determining disciplinary action."
The officer has been relieved of his police powers and is currently in a paid-leave status, village officials said.
State's Attorney Anita Alvarez attended the hearing and said the video speaks for itself.
"Her head was slammed up against a concrete bench," Alavrez said. "Officers encounter things each and every day, but when they lose control and step over the line -- it's unfortunate that we've come to this point."
Cassandra Feuerstein, 47, was arrested for DUI March 10 after officers found her pulled over at the side of the road and asleep behind the wheel.
But Feuerstein claims her civil rights were violated after she was taken to the police station.
Surveillance video portrays a calm scene as Feuerstein interacts with an officer until she says she asked to call her husband and kids.
Officer Hart called her out of the cell, and less than 20 seconds later, the video shows Hart throwing the 110-pound woman back into the cell, launching her face-first into a cement bench.
The rest of the video shows two other officers assisting her as she bled on the floor.
Feuerstein says several bones were shattered in her face, requiring reconstructive surgery and a titanium plate in her cheek.
But Hart's attorney, Jed Stone, said other angles of the video need to be viewed to get the full picture.
"He has served the community with honor and distinction for 19 years. He's a good cop," Stone said. "I believe we will see that the complaining witness resisted a lawful order of a police officer."
But Alvarez says that even if that's true, it still doesn't warrant the action of the officer.
"This can go from 0-60 so quickly, like this man did with someone who's clearly no threat to him is dangerous -- could be dangerous with that type of power that he has," Feuerstein's attorney, Torri Hamilton, said. "She doesn't even know, we don't even know what she's going to need in the future."
If convicted, Hart faces a sentence that ranges from a term of probation to up to five years in prison.
“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 Alvarez said in a 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.”