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CTA Bus Driver Accused In Road Rage Bat Attack Now Charged With Felony

By  Erica Demarest and Linze Rice | May 5, 2016 5:20am 

 Dwayne Preston (l.) is accused of hitting Meagan Panici (r.) with a bat at Clark Street and Foster Avenue on Feb.23.
Dwayne Preston (l.) is accused of hitting Meagan Panici (r.) with a bat at Clark Street and Foster Avenue on Feb.23.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice; Chicago Police Department

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Prosecutors have upgraded charges against the off-duty CTA bus driver accused of attacking a woman with a baseball bat while on his way to work earlier this year.

Dwayne Preston, 46, was initially charged with misdemeanor battery following the Feb. 23 attack, which happened at a busy Andersonville intersection in front of "dozens of witnesses."

But prosecutors this week dropped that case and are now pursuing a charge of felony aggravated battery in a public place, records show.

RELATED: CTA Bus Driver Hit Woman With Bat In Traffic Dispute, Police Say

Preston, who was off-duty and on his way to work, is accused of poking and later hitting a 29-year-old woman with a metal baseball bat after he claimed she cut him off in traffic, prosecutors said.

During a bond hearing Wednesday, Cook County Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. said Preston could be released on his own recognizance — so long as he wears an electronic-monitoring bracelet and adheres to a curfew.

Preston still is allowed to work for the CTA, the judge ruled.

The CTA last month said Preston was suspended pending an investigation, but Preston's defense attorney Wednesday said his client still is working for the CTA.

The CTA on Wednesday said Preston was not driving a bus currently.

"CTA is continuing to investigate the matter, in light of the recent charges. The operator remains out of service," said spokesman Jeff Tolman.

The bat attack allegedly happened about 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Clark Street and Foster Avenue, court records show.

The victim, identified as 29-year-old Meagan Panici, was stopped at a red light when she heard honking, Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto said during a bond hearing Wednesday.

That's when Preston, who was dressed in his CTA uniform and on his way to work, got out of his car and began shoving a metal baseball bat through Panici's open driver's side window, prosecutors said.

In an interview last month, Panici said she was scared and tried to open her door slightly to push Preston away. But he immediately shut the door on her foot, she added.

With "adrenaline pumping," Panici said, she opened the door again, got out and told Preston to "back up" before eventually spitting at the man's chest, she said.

That's when Preston took a swing, according to Panici and prosecutors.

Panici suffered "extensive bruising" and a hematoma to the back of her leg, Scaduto said — who added that "dozens of witnesses" watched the entire altercation unfold.

Police arrested Preston that evening, and he was later released on his own recognizance pending trial. He has no other criminal record.

Preston was arrested again Monday and charged with felony aggravated battery in a public place, court records show. His next court date is Monday.

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