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Skokie Cop Accused Of On-Duty Battery Resigns

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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)

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(STMW) -- A north suburban police officer facing felony charges for allegedly throwing a woman into a bench during an arrest resigned on Friday.

Michael Hart, a 19-year veteran of the Skokie Police Department, was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct following a DUI arrest on March 10 in which a woman suffered injuries, according to a statement from the village.

After an internal investigation, the 42-year-old Hart was notified last week the village would seek to terminate him for violating police rules and regulations, the statement said.

He was given 10 days to decide whether to require the village to file charges to terminate him, or to file a “grievance arbitration.”

Instead, Hart turned in his resignation to the police chief.

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, prosecutors said during his bond hearing.

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.

Hart was stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative leave after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office filed criminal charges last month.

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 other traffic citations were dropped.

She 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 Feuerstein of resisting efforts to be escorted into a cell.

Feuerstein’s lawyer subpoenaed the footage of the incident. It shows a man in a police uniform pushing her into a cell, causing her head to strike a concrete bench.

It is the first time in decades that a Skokie police officer has been charged criminally for an on-duty incident, the village statement said. It has also been many years since “Skokie police sought termination of an officer for duty-related conduct.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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