Cook County jail officer charged with beating restrained inmate

CHICAGO — A correctional officer stands accused of beating a detainee who was handcuffed to a wall at the Cook County jail last year. Richard Smith, 44, was de-deputized days after the incident last September, prosecutors said as they charged him with aggravated battery and official misconduct during a bond hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Smith and another officer were escorting a 24-year-old male detainee to a medical unit and shackled one of his arms to a wall as they waited for transportation around 1 p.m. on September 20, Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Fryska told Judge Ankur Srivastava in court.

Richard Smith | Cook County sheriff’s office

The inmate began yelling at Smith, who stood face-to-face as the inmate made derogatory statements, put a finger to Smith’s face, and threatened to spit on him. Soon, the other correctional officer stepped in and moved the inmate back while trying to de-escalate the situation, Fryska said.

But the inmate spat on Smith, and the 12-year veteran officer immediately began punching the victim in the face as the victim tried to fight back. The other officer restrained the inmate’s free hand within ten seconds, Fryska continued, but Smith delivered ten more punches to the man’s face within seconds.

Fryska said the second officer “escorted the victim to the ground” and called for backup.

With the inmate on the ground, one arm shackled and the other restrained by the second officer, Smith launched another attack, punching the victim 20 more times in the head and torso, Fryska alleged. Additional officers arrived at the scene seconds later.

In a written statement, the sheriff’s office said surveillance cameras recorded the incident, and a jail supervisor immediately referred the incident to investigators.

Fryska said the inmate did not suffer any bone fractures and called a hematoma on the back of the man’s head the “worst of the injuries.”

Private defense attorney Dan Herbert told Judge Srivastava that Smith was on the jail’s emergency response team for nine years. Herbert said he has been married for 15 years and has three children with his wife, a Chicago police officer.

Srivastava set bail at $50,000, meaning Smith had to pay a $5,000 deposit to be released.

The sheriff’s office said it would seek to suspend Smith without pay and recommend his termination to the Sheriff’s Merit Board.