Chicago officer admits striking cuffed man

Jan. 22, 2009 at 8:34 PM

CHICAGO, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A Chicago police officer has pleaded guilty to striking a man while the man was handcuffed and shackled in a wheelchair, federal officials said Thursday.

William Cozzi, who joined the Chicago Police Department in 1992, has admitted using excessive force while acting under color of law, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said.

Cozzi, 51, was indicted last April on charges of depriving the victim of his civil rights. He was accused of striking with a weapon a man who was handcuffed and shackled in a wheelchair at Norwegian American Hospital -- where the man was awaiting emergency room treatment for a stab wound in his shoulder.

"No law enforcement officer may use unreasonable force with impunity and every citizen, regardless of being in police custody, has a Constitutional right to be free from the use of excessive force," Fitzgerald said.

Cozzi pleaded guilty while reserving his right to appeal a judge's rulings last year denying his motion to dismiss the indictment, on the grounds that the prosecution was based in part on compelled statements he made to the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards.

U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning set sentencing for March 26. Cozzi faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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