A detainee at Cook County jail is facing charges of aggravated battery of a guard even though video of the incident involving the handcuffed and wheelchair bound man appears to contradict the account of the sheriff’s deputy.
Despite the video evidence, Sheriff Tom Dart’s office forwarded the allegations and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office filed the charge which carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in prison.
A spokesman for Dart defended the decision to forward the case on to prosecutors and said the decision ultimately rested with the state’s attorney’s office. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Foxx declined to answer why prosecutors pursued the charge.
“Trying to break my wrist”
Video footage of the Oct. 25 incident from multiple body cameras worn by guards shows Steve Fanady being moved from one jail building to another in a wheelchair. Fanady’s attorney, Laura Grochocki, said Fanady had COVID-19 and was being transferred to a solo cell. He’d been in the jail since June 2022 because of his failure to comply with a divorce agreement.
Fanady sometimes uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around because of two hip replacements, according to Grochocki. When staff wheeled Fanady into his new cell, there was no bed, just a mat on the floor. Because of his limited mobility, laying down on the floor would have made it impossible for him to get back up without help, Grochocki said.
Fanady can be seen and heard on video yelling for staff to provide him with an actual bed. He refuses to get up out of his wheelchair until a bed is brought into the room. Staff try to coax him out of the wheelchair, promising him a bed is coming soon.
When Fanady continues to refuse, Sgt. William Baker, seen in the video wearing a white sheriff’s polo, threatens to spray Fanady in the face with pepper spray. Baker and other deputies decide to put Fanady in handcuffs. He resists and holds on to the arms of the wheelchair but the guards are able to force his arms free and get him cuffed. Baker then grabs Fanady’s arm and wrist and pulls his hand back attempting to use pain to force Fanady to comply. On the video he can be heard instructing another guard to do the same. “Stop resisting!” Baker tells Fanady.
Fanady then screams in pain, telling Baker “you’re gonna break my wrist.”
“Grab his wrist, bend it, he’ll get up,” Baker says to another guard.
When that doesn’t work, Baker and other staff members lift Fanady out of the wheelchair and lay him down on his side on the floor of the cell.
Fanady actively resists the attempt to pull him out of the chair, doing his best to stay fixed in place. But he does not appear to make any move toward the guards.
In a written report, Baker writes that Fanady wrapped the sergeant’s wrist in the chain of his handcuffs “trying to break my wrist.”
A felony indictment returned by a grand jury a month later alleges that Fanady “grabbed and pulled Deputy Sergeant Baker about the body.”
But videos of the incident, obtained by WBEZ from the Sheriff’s office under the state’s freedom of information law, do not prove up those allegations. Fanady does not appear to pull Baker “about the body” nor wrap his wrist in his cuffs, instead Fanady appears to make his body go limp and resists efforts to pull him out of the wheelchair.
“The Cook County Sheriff made this an issue, you know, instead of looking at the video and saying ‘Okay, no battery,’ they went and they took this case, this video to Kim Foxx. They got him charged with a felony which he is currently fighting,” said Grochocki. “What’s really astounding about it is the video shows exactly the opposite, that no battery occurred.”
In a statement, Dart’s spokesman Matt Walberg said staff safety is a top priority for the sheriff “and we will not tolerate criminal behavior that endangers their well-being.”
“While the Sheriff’s Office cannot comment on an ongoing criminal case, it is important to note that following a review of the evidence — which included a review of all available video footage — the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved the charge of aggravated battery to a peace officer,” Walberg said.
Fanady is charged with aggravated battery because Baker is a corrections officer. Illinois law says a crime that would be simple battery in most contexts is elevated to aggravated battery when the alleged victim is a jail guard. Fanady is due in court next in the criminal case on May 8.
The felony battery case is one of several ongoing legal matters in which Fanady is involved. He is suing the Cook County sheriff for alleged mistreatment in the jail and has an ongoing civil contempt case related to the divorce settlement that landed him behind bars in the first place. Grochocki is representing him in his civil cases. He is being represented by the public defender in the criminal case.