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Skokie Officer Charged After Shoving Woman Into Jail Cell

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Cassandra Feuerstein slams into a bench after video tape showed her being thrown into a jail cell. (CBS)

Cassandra Feuerstein slams into a bench after video tape showed her being thrown into a jail cell. (CBS)

UPDATED: 10/30/2013 1:25 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Skokie police officer caught on video shoving a woman into a concrete jail cell is now facing felony charges.

Michael Hart, 43, was charged on Wednesday with aggravated battery and official misconduct in connection with the incident. At a court hearing on Wednesday morning, a judge set Hart’s bond at $75,000.

After posting bond, Hart had no comment for reporters.

Cassandra Feuerstein admits to driving drunk when she was picked up in March but said her treatment by Hart was excessive.

Cook County prosecutors agree.

In a civil rights lawsuit filed earlier this month, Feuerstein claims Officer Hart shoved her into a concrete bench – breaking bones in her face and that required a titanium plate.

As for the criminal case, prosecutors said that on March 10 Hart was on duty and assisting in the fingerprinting and photographing Feuerstein.

During the booking process, Hart “became irate” after Feuerstein repeatedly disregarded his command to look at a specific location on a camera lens in order to allow him to take an arrest and booking photo.

After the woman disobeyed Hart’s final command, the officer grabbed her forcibly by the arm and pulled her towards an open detention cell, prosecutors said. At the entrance of the cell, the detainee attempted to use both hands to grasp the sides of the doorway, regain her balance and request that she have another opportunity to be photographed.

At that point, Hart allegedly put both of his hands on the woman’s back and pushed her forcefully into the cell.

According to prosecutors, the force of the shove propelled the woman across the cell causing her face and head to slam into a concrete bench.

The face-first impact with the concrete fractured the woman’s right orbital bone, loosened some of her teeth and opened a deep cut on her cheek.

The orbital fracture required reconstructive surgery during which a titanium plate was inserted in the woman’s cheek. She also suffers vision and dental problems as a result of the incident, prosecutors said.

In her civil lawsuit, Feuerstein says the officer then filed a false report claiming she resisted police to justify the shove. Cook County prosecutors later dismissed those charges.

“Apparently I was not looking into the camera the way the officer wanted me to,” Feuerstein said at the time she filed the lawsuit.

She seeks unspecified damages.

If convicted of the criminal charges, Hart faces a sentence of probation to up to five years in prison.

“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.

Hart has been stripped of his police powers and placed on paid leave, which the village said is in accordance with policy.

The village continues its internal investigation and will take “appropriate actions” once their review is done, Mayor George Van Dusen said in a statement.