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Body Cam Video Contradicts Detainee’s Indictment in Scuffle With Chicago Jail Guards

by Jo Ellen Nott

A long-term civil detainee in Chicago’s Cook County Jail – the only one, in fact – is facing charges of aggravated battery of a guard, although body camera footage of the October 2022 incident contradicts a guard’s version of events used to secure the indictment.

A judge put Steve Fanady, 58, in the Chicago lockup since June 2022 on a $10 million bond for civil contempt in a divorce settlement from 14 years ago. At issue are 120,000 shares in the Chicago Board of Trade, which Fanady sold just prior to his marriage, allegedly placing the assets in an off-shore blind trust.

On October 25, 2022, Fanady contracted COVID-19 and was being transferred to a solo cell. He has double hip replacements and arthritis of the pelvis and spine, according to his attorney, Laura Grochocki, leaving him at times dependent on a wheelchair or a walker. When jail staff wheeled him to his new cell, there was only a mat on the floor – no bed. With his limited mobility Fanady would not be able to lie down on the floor nor get back up without help. 

In video from that day, Fanady was seen and heard yelling for a bed. He refused several times to leave his wheelchair, even when staff promised a bed was being brought. When Fanady continued to ignore orders, Sgt. William Baker threatened to pepper-spray him. Then, with the help of other guards, Baker handcuffed the detainee.

A scuffle ensued as Baker bent Fanady’s wrist in an unsuccessful attempt to make him get up. The detainee screamed in pain, yelling: “You’re gonna break my wrist!” To get him out of the wheelchair, Sgt. Baker and other staffers were forced to lift Fanady from the seat and put him on his side on the cell floor.

In the incident report that Baker wrote, he claimed that Fanady wrapped the handcuff’s chain around the guard’s wrist, trying to break it. The office of Sheriff Tom Dart (D) forwarded the case to State Attorney Kim Foxx (D), whose office filed the felony charge, which carries a possible prison sentence of three to seven years. A spokesman for Dart defended the decision to send the case to prosecutors. Foxx’s office would not answer why charges were pursued. 

A grand jury returned a felony indictment, alleging Fanady “grabbed and pulled Deputy Sergeant Baker about the body.” But WBEZ, a non-commercial educational radio station in Chicago, obtained videos of the incident under Illinois’ Freedom of Information law. Those videos contradict the allegations: Fanady does not pull Baker “about the body” nor wrap Baker’s wrist in his handcuffs. On the contrary, Fanady appears to go limp as he resists being removed from the wheelchair.

Fanady’s felony battery case is one of several he has pending. In addition to the ongoing civil contempt case related to the unresolved divorce settlement, Grochocki has sued Cook County on his behalf in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging mistreatment in the jail. See: Fanady v. Dart, USDC (N.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:22-cv-04180.

Sources:  Forbes, Chicago Sun Times, New York Post

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