Two Cook County Jail officers overseeing a psychiatric ward ordered two inmates to beat up another inmate who had angered them and then tried to cover it up by claiming the battered victim attempted suicide, prosecutors said Friday.
"This is what happens to you (expletive) when you step out of line. You disrespect us, we disrespect you," prosecutors said the 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 bail at $50,000 each and ordered them to turn over any firearms.
A photograph taken of the victim, Kyle Pillischafske, on the day after shows he sustained two black eyes and severe swelling on his face. Prosecutors said the damage took place despite the officers yelling for the two inmates to hit Pillischafske with "body shots" so his injuries would be less visible.
The inmate's mother, Morgan Pillischafske, of Mount Prospect, told the Tribune that she was shocked when she learned about the beating and later heard from her son that he thought he was going to die. He had been doing well there, receiving treatment for his bipolar disorder while awaiting trial on an aggravated battery charge, she said.
"Not only did these guards mistreat Kyle, they took advantage of two other inmates as well, all because they were supposedly called a name," she said Friday in a telephone interview. "You have to have thicker skin than that."
Sawyer and Bruce were working the 3 to 11 p.m. shift in the psychiatric tier in maximum-security Division 10 when inmates tried to light a makeshift cigarette in an electrical outlet, sparking a small fire and cutting power to part of the tier, Assistant State's Attorney Nicholas Trutenko said.
The officers, believing Pillischafske was partly to blame, confronted him, prompting a heated exchange, the prosecutor said.
The officers instructed "two of the larger inmates" to go into his cell and beat him, Trutenko said.
Sawyer and Bruce are alleged to have stood watch while the two inmates struck Pillischafske in the face and head. They then joined in, hitting him with their radios and kicking him in the side, the prosecutor said.
To cover up their misconduct, the officers misled a supervisor to believe that Pillischafske hurt himself by banging his head against a shower wall during a suicide attempt, the charges alleged.
The two later lied repeatedly to a grand jury investigating the beating, Trutenko said.
After their arrest Thursday, both officers were stripped of police powers and suspended with pay pending an internal disciplinary hearing next week, said Frank Bilecki, the sheriff's spokesman.
A lawsuit filed by Pillischafske against the officers, the county and Sheriff Tom Dart is pending in federal court.
Bruce, of Chicago, and Sawyer, of Justice, are both married mothers of two and have no criminal records or disciplinary history with the Sheriff's Department, according to their attorneys.
Peter Hickey, Sawyer's attorney, 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.
Pillischafske, now 19, was jailed at the time of the beating on a charge he intentionally caused a car crash in a botched suicide attempt, injuring a woman in the other car. He pleaded guilty a few weeks later to aggravated battery and was sentenced to probation, court records show.
Pillischafske's mother said despite her son's mental health issues, he is a "pretty likable kid" who loves music, plays bass guitar and is hoping to go to college.
"Kyle needs to move on from this," she said. "The whole thing was very unfortunate."
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