Charges escalate for CTA commuters

Grace Johnson

Three Evanston residents originally charged with misdemeanors for shouting anti-gay slurs and attacking a fellow commuter on a CTA train in January will now face felony aggravated battery and hate crime charges, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said.

The change in charges came about as the state’s attorney’s office investigated the case further to press for more serious charges, said Tandra Simonton, deputy communications director for the office. The state’s attorney’s office said it could not comment on what in the investigation led them to press for a hate crime charge.

The victim, Daniel Hauff, said he is pleased the charges have been changed.

“I’m extremely grateful for the state’s attorney’s office and the Chicago Police Department for really taking a look at the facts and upgrading the charges to felony hate crime,” the 33-year-old said. “I do hope they vigorously prosecute the charges.”

Kevin McAndrew and Benjamin Eder, both 23 years old, and Sean Little, 21, physically attacked Hauff on a Red Line train after he attempted to defend another commuter whom the three suspects were verbally harassing, prosecutors said. The attorneys for the defense could not be reached Thursday.

Little already was perpetrating a hate crime against an “18- or 19-year-old young gay male” when Hauff intervened.

“It was clear they had already conducted a hate crime against this other guy when I broke into it at what time all their anger and hatred turned to me,” Hauff said.

Hauff said Little was joined by Eder and McAndrew, who all began punching, kicking and calling him a “stupid faggot.” The fight spilled onto the platform at the Argyle stop at which point Hauff finally stopped the fight by pretending to be HIV-positive.

“The only way I could get them to stop was to smear blood on at least two of their faces,” Hauff said. “I told them I was HIV-positive, which isn’t true, so I didn’t put them at any risk.

Then they were so busy getting my blood off their faces that they were still in the station and were able to be caught.”

The three suspects appeared in court Thursday where they were taken into custody on $10,000 bail, according to a Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office press release. The case will come to court March 17. If convicted, the suspects could face five years in prison.

“We want the story told for people to realize this still happens in 2010, and it’s unacceptable to violate anyone’s body,” Hauff said. “That’s why I came forward.”[email protected]