Three white St. Louis police officers Monday walked free after jury trial failed to convict them over a 2017 attack on black undercover officer
Officers Steven Korte, Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone were either acquitted or jury failed to reach a decision in the devasting assault of undercover cop Luther Hall in Dec 2017
Hall was when he was brutally assaulted by fellow officers while embedded with protestors during a violent demonstration in 2017
The city was engulfed in protests following the acquital of Jason Stockley, a white police officer in the killing of Lamar Smith, a black man
Hall who was not disoobeying commands when he was thrown to the ground and beaten, suffering a busted lip and spine and neck injuries, was awarded a $5m settlement from the city
Officer Randy Hays had earlier pled guilty to assaulting Hall and lying to the FBI a jury
A fifth officer, Bailey Colletta, had also pled guilty to lying in the cover up
Three St. Louis police officers, all white males, accused of beating a black undercover colleague so severely that he had to undergo multiple surgeries have walked free after a jury did not convict on any charges, despite an earlier settlement of $5million in a related civil suit.
City police officer Luther Hall was mistaken for a protester during violent demonstrations in the city in 2017.
The jury was told Hall, who had been recording criminal activity, became separated from his partner while fleeing officers who were firing pepper-spray pellets and bean bag rounds into the crowd.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Costantin said Hall was complying with orders to get on the ground when he was knocked down, hit, picked up and knocked down again before being attacked with fists, feet and a baton.
Hall suffered a hole in his lip that had to be stitched closed, injuries to his jaw and injuries to his neck that later required spinal fusion. He was unable to eat solid food for weeks, causing him to lose 20 pounds.
Hall said he did not push, fight or pull away from the officers. He said he was stunned. ‘I couldn’t believe it was happening,’ he told the jury. He described the 2017 attack to jurors as a ‘free-for-all.’
A federal jury on Monday delivered a mixed verdict for one current and two former St. Louis police officers accused of the 2017 beating an undercover officer, but returned no guilty verdicts, ending a trial lasting more than two weeks.
Jurors acquitted Officer Steven Korte and former Officer Christopher Myers on a charge of deprivation of civil rights under color of law for the beating of detective Luther Hall
The panel were unable to reach a decision on that charge against former officer Dustin Boone. Likewise, jurors were also unable to reach a verdict for a charge of destruction of property against Christpher Myers, who was accused of destroying Hall’s cellphone.
The victim, officer Luther Hall is Black. The cops who assaulted him, Boone, Korte, Myers and two other officers – Bailey Colletta and Randy Hays – who have already pled guilty, are white.
The jury picked two weeks ago was also all white, sparking an unsuccessful objection from prosecutors. But one juror was replaced by a Black alternate last week.
“How it was laid out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office was perfect. But you cannot get past Black and white,” Taylor said.
The assault on officer Luther Hall occured after Hall went undercover to monitor the protests which had erupted in St. Louis on the night of September 15, 2017, after a white St Louis police officer named Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder charges in the death of African-American suspect Anthony Lamar Smith.
At the time the St. Louis region was still recovering from unrest that followed the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.
Two nights after Stockley’s acquittal, demonstrators broke windows downtown. Police made 123 arrests, but protesters and civil rights leaders said many of those arrested were peaceful demonstrators, journalists and onlookers who were brutalized and taunted.
A total of five officers faced charges stemming from the incident.
Officers Boone, Myers, Korte and a fourth officer, Randy Hays were caccused of assaulting Hall on Sept. 17, 2017, during a night of protests against police violence. Myers allegedly smashed Hall’s cellphone to thwart any resulting investigation while Korte lied to investigators about his presence there and his activities.
Two other officers, Randy Hays and Bailey Colletta, who also are white, previously entered guilty pleas. Hays admitted hitting Hall with a baton and shoving him to the ground. Hays also claimed he saw Korte kick Hall in the face.
Colletta pled guilty to making false statements to the grand jury about the assault.
Officer Steven Korte was acquitted of charges of deprivation of rights under color of law and of lying to the FBI.
Former officer Christopher Myers also was acquitted Monday of a deprivation of rights count, but the all-white jury could not reach a verdict on a charge of destruction of evidence against Myers for allegedly smashing Hall´s cellphone.
The jury was also deadlocked on the deprivation of rights charge against former officer Dustin Boone, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on counts where the jury could not agree.
During the trial, defense lawyers had argued that chaos and dysfunction within the St. Louis Police Department meant that officers and supervisors on the street didn’t know undercover officers were working that night.
They also challenged Hall´s ability to identify his attackers.
But the decision left some observers stunned and angry. Heather Taylor, former head of the Ethical Society of Police, watched the trial and said the verdict “makes no sense.”
Black officers would have been convicted, Taylor said.
The verdicts reignited criticisms that an all-white jury was picked to decide the case.
‘If an undercover cop can´t get justice, how will the rest of us who have been maced, shot, beaten, and brutalized ever get justice?’ tweeted U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, a black Democrat who represents the Missouri district that includes St. Louis.
Police Chief John Hayden said Tuesday that the St. Louis police department would begin an internal affairs investigation, which he said was delayed at the request of federal prosecutors to avoid compromising the criminal investigation.
‘It is our hope to now obtain all relevant evidence from the FBI to conduct a complete and thorough internal investigation,’ Hayden’s statement said.
It was unclear if the internal investigation would involve only Korte and not Myers and Boone, who could still face charges. Hayden said he would not make any further statements or answer questions.
Steven Korte was also acquitted of a charge of lying to the FBI. Outside court defense attorney John Rogers, said he was “ecstatic,” that Korte could now “return to the St. Louis Police Department if he so chooses.”
Scott Rosenblum, lawyer for Myers, also criticized prosecutors from the civil rights division in Washington for the way they handled the case – for basing their case on “rumors” from within the department.
Rosenblum maintained that federal prosecutors failed to prove Myers was among those who beat Hall.
Prosecutors have said Myers and Boone were motivated by an eagerness to harm protesters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Hall recently settled a lawsuit against the department for $5 million.