Jail officers ordered inmate beating, prosecutors say

Two Cook County Jail officers overseeing a high-security psychiatric ward ordered two inmates to beat up another inmate who had angered them, and then tried to cover it up by claiming the victim had attempted suicide, prosecutors said today in court.

“This is what happens to you (expletive) when you step out of line. You disrespect us, we disrespect you,” prosecutors said the women officers announced to the entire tier after the beating last February. 

Delphia Sawyer, 31, and Pamela Bruce, 30, both six-year veterans with the sheriff’s office, were charged with official misconduct, obstructing justice, perjury and mob action.

Judge Edward Harmening set bond at $50,000 each and ordered them to turn over any firearms and passports. The two were stripped of police powers by the sheriff’s department.

“They are supposed to maintain order in the jail in a professional and conscientious manner,” Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko said in court. “Instead, they used these two inmates (who administered the beating) in the same way you would a gun or a knife.”

On the night of Feb. 9, 2012, Sawyer and Bruce were monitoring the psychiatric tier in Division 10 – a maximum-security area of the jail – when some of the inmates tried to light a makeshift cigarette in an electrical outlet, sparking a small fire and cutting power to part of the tier, Trutenko said.

The officers believed an 18-year-old inmate was partly responsible and confronted him in the shower. Both sides cursed at one another, the prosecutor said. As they led him to his cell,  the exchange grew more heated, he said.

“The officers told him that he would see who the (expletive) was,” Trutenko said.

Sawyer and Bruce then summoned “two of the larger inmates from the tier and instructed them to go in to his cell and beat him,” the prosecutor said.

Sawyer and Bruce unlocked the victim’s cell and stood watch while the two inmates beat the victim in the face, head and body for nearly five minutes, the charges alleged. At one point the officers warned the inmates to administer only “body shots” so the damage to his face would be less visible, Trutenko said.

The officers then joined in the beating, striking the victim with their radios and kicking him in the side, according to the prosecutor.

Sawyer and Bruce told their supervisor that the inmate’s injuries were self-inflicted and that they had seen the victim “attempting suicide in the shower by banging his head against the wall,” according to the charges.

The sheriff’s Office of Professional Review began an inquiry into the incident almost immediately and turned the case over to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office last year.

Bruce and Sawyer later signed false statements and lied repeatedly to a grand jury investigating the beating, Trutenko said.

Trutenko showed the judge a large color photo taken the day after the beating that showed the victim with two black eyes and severe swelling to his face. The victim still has hearing problems in one ear but did not suffer any other permanent physical injuries, the prosecutor said.
Bruce, of Chicago, and Sawyer, of Justice, both are married mothers of two and have no previous criminal records or disciplinary history with the sheriff’s department, according to their attorneys.

Peter Hickey, who represented Sawyer at the bond hearing, noted she was in charge of a very volatile tier of “psychiatrically disturbed patients.”

“These aren’t choir boys from St. Patrick’s parish,” Hickey told the judge.

Court records show the victim, Kyle Pillischafske of Mount Prospect, was in jail on an aggravated battery charge at the time of the beating. He later pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 2 years of probation and released from custody.

He filed a federal civil suit against the officers, the county and Sheriff Tom Dart still pending in federal court, records show.


Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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