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Man Accused Of Pushing Stranger Onto CTA Tracks Released From Jail

By  Erica Demarest and Alisa Hauser | October 11, 2017 11:50am | Updated on October 11, 2017 12:25pm

 Chad Estep, 34, is charged with attempted first-degree murder.
Chad Estep, 34, is charged with attempted first-degree murder.
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Chicago Police Department; DNAinfo

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The man accused of pushing a stranger onto CTA tracks in August is free on bond, the Cook County Sheriff's Office confirmed Wednesday.

Bail was set Tuesday at $200,000 for Chad Estep, the 34-year-old data analyst charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery in a public place and entering CTA property without paying a fare in the Aug. 1 attack, which took place at the Washington Blue Line Station at 19 N. Dearborn St.

Someone posted $20,000, or the requisite 10 percent needed to go free, on Tuesday, according to a sheriff's office spokeswoman. Estep was released from Cook County Jail, 2700 S. California Ave., at 8:49 p.m. Tuesday.

In court earlier that day, Estep's attorney said he believed Estep would be able to post $5,000.

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According to prosecutors, Estep — who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Northwestern University earlier this year — shoved a 46-year-old stranger onto CTA tracks without provocation about 11:40 p.m. Aug. 1.

The victim, identified in court records as Ben Benedict, was returning home from a Cubs game, prosecutors said. He was sober.

Authorities believe Estep looked intoxicated in CTA surveillance footage that shows him hopping a turnstile, leaning against a pillar and taking a phone call before the attack.

No possible motive was provided. The men never met before that evening and did not speak.

According to prosecutors, Estep refused to help Benedict — who sprained his wrist after narrowly avoiding the deadly electrified third rail — climb back on the to CTA platform. When Benedict drew the attention of other CTA customers by screaming for help, authorities said, Estep tried to prevent those people from helping Benedict, as well.

Benedict was pulled back on to the platform just moments before a train arrived, prosecutors said.

In court Tuesday, Estep's defense attorney, Vadim Glozman, said he has "serious doubts" about the validity of Estep's identification by witnesses.

“I’ve seen the stills from the video, and they’re not very clear," the defense attorney told Cook County Judge Michael Clancy. “There’s no video of this happening, judge. ... We have a 34-year-old young professional who’s just starting off his career. ... He has absolutely no criminal history. ... There’s absolutely nothing to suggest any violent behavior in his past or in his future.”

After court, Glozman told reporters Estep "lives with his wife quietly."

“Quite honestly," Glozman said, "it’s a shame that Mr. Estep has to go through all this. The allegations put forth by the state are extremely serious. And as far as I can see, there’s very minimal evidence against Mr. Estep. We’re going to do our own further, thorough investigation. At the end of that, I expect Mr. Estep to be exonerated.”

In Wicker Park, where Estep lives with his wife in a condominium, two neighbors who spoke to DNAinfo Chicago but requested not to be named confirmed Glozman's account of Estep living a quiet life.

However, one local mom who lives near the Estep home recounted an odd interaction she had had with Estep about a month ago.

"I was in my car trying to drive into a driveway and he had stopped in front of it and was on a bike, checking his cell phone. I just asked, 'Are you going to move?' and he said, 'F-- you' What are you looking at?' and gave me an odd, angry look," the neighbor said.

The neighbor said she thought it was an unusual interaction because she had seen Estep several times walking to the "L" on his way to work in the morning. Though the pair never spoke, everything about Estep seemed "very normal," she said.

No one answered the door at Estep's home Wednesday. Estep's wife has owned the property since June 2014, according to county records.