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.

jmeisner@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The cliché that colors every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...

Comments
Loading