Video appears to contradict charge of battery filed against a Cook County Jail detainee

In an Oct. 25 scuffle, a sergeant claimed a detainee in a wheelchair tried to break his wrist using handcuffs. Body cam videos don’t back that up.

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Screenshot from a body-worn camera inside the Cook County jail showing a use of force incident involving detainee Steve Fanady and Deputy Sergeant William Baker.

Cook County sheriff’s office

A Cook County Jail detainee is facing charges of aggravated battery of a guard even though video of the incident involving the handcuffed man, who’s in a wheelchair, appears to contradict the account of the sheriff’s deputy.

Despite that, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office forwarded the case to State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office. It 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 that ultimately rested with the state’s attorney’s office. 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 to the room. Staff members 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 shirt, threatens to spray Fanady in the face with pepper spray. Baker and other deputies move to place Fanady in handcuffs. He resists and holds onto the arms of the wheelchair, but the guards force his arms free and handcuff him.

Baker then grabs Fanady’s arm and wrist and pulls his hand back. On the video, he can be heard instructing another guard to do the same. “Stop resisting!” Baker tells Fanady.

Fanady 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 from the wheelchair and down on his side on the cell floor.

Fanady resists the attempt to pull him out of the chair but does not appear to make any move toward the guards.

In a written report, Baker wrote 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 says 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 appear to support those accusations. Fanady does not appear to pull Baker “about the body” nor wrap his wrist in his cuffs. He 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, ‘OK, 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,” Grochocki said. “What’s really astounding about it is the video shows exactly the opposite, that no battery occurred.”

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 was charged with aggravated battery because Baker is a corrections officer. Illinois law says a crime that typically would be considered simple battery is elevated to aggravated battery when the victim is a jail guard.

The felony battery case is one of several ongoing legal matters in which Fanady is involved. He is suing the Cook County sheriff, saying he was mistreated in the jail, and has an ongoing civil contempt case related to the divorce settlement that landed him behind bars.

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