COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The man charged with pushing a stranger onto CTA tracks in August pleaded not guilty Monday to all counts.
Chad Estep, 34, was arraigned before Cook County Judge Nicholas R. Ford on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint in an Aug. 1 attack at the Washington Blue Line station, 19 N. Dearborn St.
After a brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave., defense attorney Vadim Glozman told reporters: "We're going to keep investigating until we're able to get the best result possible for Mr. Estep."
Prosecutors allege Estep — who earned a doctorate 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.
At a preliminary hearing earlier this month, victim Ben Benedict said he didn't see who shoved him, but quickly whipped around to see Estep standing above him on the platform, which was otherwise empty at that point.
"I said, 'Dude. What the f---?" Benedict testified, adding that he and Estep had never met or spoken before that moment. "He looked down and pointed straight at me."
Prosecutors provided no possible motive. Authorities said Estep appeared intoxicated in CTA surveillance footage; Benedict was sober and on his way home from a Cubs game.
According to court testimony, Benedict suffered a sprained wrist when he landed on the tracks — just 12 to 18 inches away from the deadly electrified third rail.
Benedict said a group of passengers roughly 20 feet away on the opposite side of the tracks eventually came to his aid after Estep blocked Benedict's efforts to hoist himself back onto the platform.
Estep, who lives in Wicker Park with his wife, was arrested earlier this month after witnesses identified him as the attacker. He has been free on bond since Oct. 10, when his wife posted $20,000, or 10 percent of his total $200,000 bail.
Earlier this month, Glozman said he has "serious doubts" about the state's case and that 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.”