Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cop Facing Felony Charges For Shoving DUI Suspect Caught on Tape.

Cassandra Feuerstein
Skokie, IL—The Cook County State’s Attorney announced that felony charges were brought in a criminal complaint against 19-year veteran Skokie police officer Michael Hart, 43. 
Last March, another officer of the Skokie Police Department arrested Cassandra Feuerstein, 47 for DUI. She was brought into the station where Feuerstein was subjected to the routine booking process that includes fingerprinting and photographing.  
Officer Hart was assisting in that effort but apparently the woman became uncooperative and resisted the process. 
At some point Feuerstein refused to be photographed and as she was being returned to a holding cell she fought that effort with both hands to prevent that from happening. 
There is video with a view inside the cell but none to show what happened outside the cell door.
Officer Hart is seen giving Feuerstein a hearty shove into the cell when the unthinkable happened.  The woman went face first into the sharp edge of a concrete bench suffering some regrettably nasty injuries. 
Feuerstein has had to since undergo reconstructive facial surgery.  She’s also suffered vision and dental problems as a result of this event.
What this excessive force?  Did Feuerstein bring this upon herself by physically resisting Hart’s command and being placed in the cell?  Did officer Hart have malicious intent?
I can’t help but pity Feuerstein in that her resistance did not justify the injuries.  On the other hand I’m convinced that officer Hart never intended to inflict any injury whatsoever.  He was simply trying to get her back into the cell.
I fault the design of the cell itself having a bench with sharp concrete edges.   The facility architect and designers apparently did not take into account the fact that violence often takes place in such holding cells because drunks and mentally deranged people are the most likely to inhabit them.
The risk is equal to police officers when they must restrain or remove prisoners that resist them. 
As for Feuerstein she was apparently drunk since she entered a plea agreement and paid a fine for the DUI.
The shove itself doesn’t bother me because I’ve shoved my share of angry or drunken arrestees.  I’ve never seen such an outcome result like that, ever.
I consider this an accident, nothing more.  Was this a crime?  I just don’t see that being the case.

Hart knew full well the cameras were watching and he obviously knew his every move was recorded.  That makes a pretty solid case that he'd not intentionally injure the woman. 
This is a matter that belongs in the civil courts.  I’m horrified that a man’s career, retirement pension and liberty is jeopardized over this incident.
Officer hart is in need of a good lawyer and defense investigator.  This case needs to be tried in court rather than by the gossip of police haters.
Hart has been charged with Aggravated Battery and Official Misconduct.  Cook County Circuit Court Judge Israel Desierto has ordered that Hart held on a $75,000 bond.  It’s unknown if Hart has yet retained a defense attorney. 
I don’t know anything about Feuerstein’s background but I can’t help but feel the horror of the outcome of the officer’s shove. 
I’m not however convinced that officer Hart could have ever envisioned the injuries resulting from that shove. 

Hart is expected to appear in court on November 20, 2013 to face these charges. 
Read documents and watch the video below
   hart proffer.pdf


JeremyR said...

The time outside the cell is too short. What I see from the shadows indicates that the video was edited.
I have no love for people who drive drunk. We have screwed up standards though in this country. .08 BAC is a stupid standard. Its a cookie cutter standard, and it does not fit all. I'm not much of a drinker. If my BAC was .08, I might be a hazard. Many folks who drink regularly would not be a danger. its all about individual tolerance. Determination of DUI should be done by a test that measures a persons comprehension and reaction times. Some of these drunks are still better then my mom was cold sober at 85. To be clear, my mother drove for 75 years with out ever having an accident or a moving violation, and that my friend is the definition of passing the behind the wheel test. She surrendered her DL when she felt she was no longer safe behind the wheel.
A function test. like a mini dance revolution, done with the fingers rather then the feet could go a long way toward what I think is correct. a blood or breath test does not.
Getting back to the incident, we need a better video, not one with cover commentary, but one with sounds from the cell block. Might tell another story.
Years back, I had two corporals who rode together. One night they brought in a DUI, and as they entered the station, eight steps down, that guy fell and crashed into a drain grate at the bottom. They claimed he resisted, and we took them at their word. a month later, same thing happened with the same excuse. We could never prove they did harm intentionally, but they were never allowed to ride together again, or work the same patrol areas. Knowing them, I voted for malicious. So did the next sergeant up the chain from me. their platoon sergeant, and our captain vetoed punishing them.

Anonymous said...

At first I thought, "oh no, he really pushed her for nothing" and then I kept looking at it, and looking at it. Both her arms were outward as if to resist going inside and he gave her a good shove.

Screwed up? Yes. Civilly liable? Yes. Criminal intent? No way!

Anonymous said...

rest assured whatever police union Skokie belongs too,probably MAP,wont do anything to help the guy.Sounds like the dept didnt like the guy.

Anonymous said...

I've read that the cop falsified his report of the incident, and only after the video was released did the truth come to light. Perhaps that is the reason for the filing of charges. I too have dealt with unruly drunks, but I never would have shoved a 100 pound woman like that to get her in the cell. I agree though, that the design of the cell is awful, and makes me think that whoever designed it never had any police or corrections experience.

Paul Huebl Crimefile News said...

To suggest he made a "false report" without the facts is outrageous. It's beyond ridiculous to believe a 19 year veteran cop would think he can rewrite history of a video that everyone would be looking at.

I think that the shove was aggravated by a rubber band effect of her resistance. Again I can't imagine the physics and outcome of this event.

I think we need to recreate this with video from both sides of a doorway.