Anyone who has ridden a CTA bus or train has seen the signs:
“For your protection,” the signs say, “any person who commits a crime against a customer or employee of CTA will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
And under Illinois law, physically assaulting a transit passenger or transit employee automatically qualifies as a felony.
But, contrary to the signs, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is not prosecuting CTA attacks to the fullest extend of the law, CWBChicago has learned. In fact, prosecutors have filed nothing more than misdemeanor charges even when CTA passengers and employees have been stabbed on the transit system.
Just yesterday, a man named Michael Williamson appeared in misdemeanor bond court for violently kicking a CTA bus passenger in the face for no reason, according to prosecutors.
Police went to a bus turnaround on the 7900 block of South Halsted shortly after 3 p.m. on Christmas Day to handle a battery in progress call, prosecutors said. When cops arrived, they saw a 42-year-old man with a bloody mouth and “very swollen lip.”
The bus driver and witnesses all told cops that the bloodied man was “sitting on the bus, minding his own business” when another passenger kicked him in the face so hard, it caused the victim to fly into the bus windows, an assistant state’s attorney said.
When cops asked them who kicked the victim, they all pointed at Williamson, prosecutors said.
By all appearances, the allegations check the boxes for felony aggravated battery of a transit passenger. But Williamson is only charged with a misdemeanor.
“The court finds it particularly aggravating that this occurred to a random person simply trying to ride public transit,” Judge Susana Ortiz said before setting Williamson’s bail at $5,000. He must post a 10% deposit to go home on electronic monitoring.
In August, a 27-year-old Red Line passenger was stabbed in the hand by a man who was arguing with another passenger at the Belmont station. According to prosecutors, the victim was not involved in the dispute and was simply trying to get off the train.
Police found a knife at the scene and arrested 49-year-old Maurice Holmes for the attack. He was charged with a misdemeanor and went home on a recognizance bond. Holmes never showed up for court and there is a warrant out for his arrest, according to court records.
You may remember our reporting on Quinton Joiner. She allegedly stabbed a CTA worker in the neck after he accidentally sprayed her with water as he washed the State-Lake train platform in July.
Prosecutors only charged her with a misdemeanor, and Joiner pleaded guilty less than a month later in exchange for a probation sentence. In October, she was arrested again after she allegedly brandished a knife and took a purse from a woman who was attending a wedding in Millennium Park. Prosecutors again charged her with only misdemeanors.
Joiner is now jailed in Florida where she allegedly stabbed two people in separate random attacks last month.
CWBChicago will be keeping a close eye on how CTA crimes are charged in the new year.