No convictions for ex-officers accused of beating colleague at St. Louis protest
ST. LOUIS – No convictions were returned for three white St. Louis police officers accused of beating a black undercover colleague so badly that he underwent multiple surgeries in a protest against the acquittal of another officer.
A jury on Monday acquitted officer Steven Korte of deprivation of rights allegations and of lying to the FBI in connection with the attack on officer Luther Hall. It happened when Hall was mistaken for a protester during demonstrations that erupted after former police officer Jason Stockley, who is white, was convicted of the death of a black Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.
Hall, who is still in the department, described the 2017 attack on the jury as “free for all.”
Former officer Christopher Myers was also acquitted on Monday for disapproval, but the jury was unable to pass a verdict on the destruction of evidence against Myers for allegedly smashing Hall’s cell phone. The jury was also bogged down for disenfranchising former officer Dustin Boone, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on cases where the jury could not agree.
Defense lawyers said the chaos and malfunction of the police department resulted in officers and guards on the street not knowing that undercover officers were working that night. Defenders also questioned Hall’s ability to identify his attackers.
The judgments reignited criticism that an all-white jury was selected to decide the case.
“If an undercover cop can’t get justice, how will the rest of us who have been macedated, shot, beaten, and brutalized ever get justice?” Cori Bush, a black congresswoman who represents the Missouri district, which includes St. Louis, tweeted.
Korte attorney, John Rogers, praised the jury’s acquittal for his client on Monday and said outside the courthouse that Korte “could now return to the St. Louis Police Department if he so wishes”. Korte is still employed in the division but has not taken up duty since his indictment.
Attorney Scott Rosenblum, who represented Myers, claimed, as during the trial, that federal prosecution failed to prove that Myers was among those who defeated Hall. Following Monday’s ruling, he accused prosecutors of basing their case on rumors from the department.
A Boone attorney, Patrick Kilgore of St. Louis, did not immediately return phone and email messages left Tuesday morning and looked for comment.
Two other officers, Randy Hays and Bailey Colletta, who are both also white, have previously filed complaints. Hays pleaded guilty in 2018, admitting hitting Hall with a baton and knocking him to the ground. Colletta pleaded guilty to false statements about the attack to the grand jury.
The St. Louis area was still recovering from the unrest following the fatal police shootings of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson in 2014. And two nights after Stockley’s acquittal, protesters broke downtown windows. Police arrested 123 people, but protesters and civil rights activists said many of those arrested were peaceful protesters, journalists and bystanders who were brutalized and ridiculed.
Hall, who had recorded criminal activity during the protests, was separated from his partner when he fled officials who fired pepper spray pellets and beanbag bullets into the crowd.
U.S. assistant attorney Carrie Costantin told jurors that when Hall followed the instructions to stand, he was knocked down, beaten, picked up and knocked down again before being attacked with fists, feet and a baton.
Hall said he didn’t push, fight, or pull the officers away. He said he was stunned. “I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he told the jury.
Prosecutors said two of the officers, Myers and Boone, were motivated by willingness to harm protesters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Hall didn’t tell officials he was undercover because he didn’t want to ruin his chances of working undercover in future protests. A sergeant later recognized Hall and had him pulled aside.
Hall suffered a hole in his lip that had to be sewn shut, injuries to his jaw, and injuries to his neck that later required a spinal fusion. He was also unable to consume solid foods for weeks, causing him to lose 9.1 kilograms.
Hall sued the department and officials, including Myers and Boone, recently settled the case against the department for $ 5 million.