Judge finds probable cause to pursue charges against NU doctoral graduate in CTA pushing


(Erica Snow/Daily Senior Staffer)

The 42nd branch of the Circuit Court of Cook County, 2452 W. Belmont Ave. Northwestern doctoral graduate Chad Estep appeared in court Monday for a preliminary hearing in which the judge found probable cause to pursue criminal charges.

Rishika Dugyala and Erica Snow

CHICAGO — A Cook County judge found probable cause Monday to pursue criminal charges against Northwestern doctoral graduate Chad Estep, who was accused of pushing a Chicago man onto CTA train tracks in August.

Estep, a 34-year-old who received his doctorate in neuroscience in March, was charged Oct. 9 with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery in a public place, two felony counts.

He appeared Monday at the 42nd branch of Cook County Circuit Court in front of Judge Marvin Luckman. The judge held a preliminary hearing with testimony from two witnesses for the prosecution: the plaintiff, Ben Benedict, and Chicago Police Department detective Marc Lapadula.

Benedict alleged that on Aug. 1 around 11:30 p.m., he left a Chicago Cubs game and was waiting alone for a train when he felt a push on his lower back, causing him to fall from the platform and land about “12 to 18 inches” from the electrified third rail.

He said he landed on his right arm, rendering it “immobile.” Benedict testified that he didn’t see who pushed him, but he turned around nearly seven to eight seconds after he fell and noticed Estep.

“He looked down and pointed straight at me,” Benedict said.

Benedict said he and Estep had never met before the incident, and he identified the NU graduate in court as the aggressor. Benedict added that he also picked Estep out of a physical lineup.

The plaintiff, who has lived in Chicago for 20 years, said once he walked to the platform’s edge, Estep made a motion to keep him from climbing back onto the platform.

Benedict then noticed people waiting for another train about 20 feet away and said he yelled for help, telling them, “I think he’s trying to kill me.” He said about two people helped him onto the platform.

There “couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds or a minute” before the next train came, Benedict said. He testified that he did not visit a bar before or after the game, and did not consume alcohol during the game.

Vadim Glozman, an attorney representing Estep, said his client “could’ve been there to help,” and clarified no one “physically prevented” Benedict from climbing back onto the platform.

Glozman declined to comment after Monday’s hearing.

Lapadula testified that he investigated the incident, reviewed the CTA footage and was able to identify Estep in the video.

The detective said CTA cameras caught five different angles of the incident — the footage shows Benedict entering the station and later being pushed from behind. Lapadula added that Benedict was “denied” the ability to get back on the platform.

When Glozman asked Lapadula whether he could clearly identify Estep as the aggressor, the detective said he could make a “direct comparison” using the still photos he had of Estep entering and leaving the station.

Estep will appear in court Oct. 30 at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building.

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