A former Chicago police sergeant has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor civil rights violation after being accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a transgender woman.
65-year-old James Sajdak faced life in prison for allegedly assaulting Tyshee Featherstone while he was on duty. The plea agreement means he only faces up to a year in federal prison and potentially could avoid prison time with probation instead.
He grabbed her in an elevator and she threw her hot coffee over her shoulder to escape the harrowing attack.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the plea agreement states that Sajdak approached the victim in his squad car “and briefly activated his sirens” before demanding she get in. She said no at first, but he threatened her with arrest, saying, “You can get in the front or you can get in the back.”
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She then got in the vehicle’s front seat, and Sajdak took her to an abandoned lot. He then “locked the car doors, closed his police laptop and turned off his police radio” before sexually assaulting her and then trying to give her money.
Featherstone sued the city and settled for $100,000.
A month after the alleged assault, the police department stripped Sajdak of police powers. He quickly decided to retire, ending his 30-year career.
Court filings show that Sajdak’s attorney was prepared to argue that Featherstone entered the vehicle willingly “with the intent to perform a sex act.”
Sajdak’s attorney said that his client has recognizes his “mistakes” and “is happy to put this behind him and move on.”
“The government recognized this case for what it is and should be given due credit for meeting us halfway to resolve this matter,” the lawyer told the Sun-Times. “We look forward to sentencing.”
But the Tribune found that Sajdak has a long history of wrongdoing as a cop.
Over two decades ago, the internal affairs division of his department recommended he be fired after an investigation concluded that he and his partner blackmailed a convicted felon, threatening to drum up fake drug charges and send him back to prison if he did not turn in an illegal gun. He was also named in a 2013 lawsuit alleging that a group of officers had a woman unjustly strip-searched.
While the victim was not named in the most recent assault case against Sajdak, Featherstone’s civil lawsuit alleges he sexually assaulted her the same day as the incident named in the criminal suit.