ST. LOUIS (CN) --- A federal jury on Monday failed to convict one current and two former St. Louis police officers accused of beating an undercover Black officer during a 2017 protest.
The white officers were accused of civil rights violations after beating fellow officer Luther Hall, who is Black, while mistaking him for a protestor. Hall was working undercover at the time.
In a mixed verdict, jurors acquitted Officer Steven Korte and former officer Christopher Myers on a charge of deprivation of civil rights under color of law but could not reach a decision on former officer Dustin Boone. Jurors were also unable to come to a verdict on a destruction of property charge against Myers, who was accused of breaking Hall’s cell phone.
The deprivation of civil rights charges carried up to 10 years in prison.
The decision brought mixed emotions outside of the courthouse.
“We’re ecstatic that he can return to the St. Louis City Police Department if he so chooses, and he can remain a person with a reputation intact,” Attorney John Rogers, who represented Korte, told reporters.
Heather Taylor, a retired St. Louis Police Sergeant, was angered by the ruling. She said Black officers would have been convicted.
“Today, a jury that was comprised of white mostly white males, and white women, made a decision, ignoring evidence, and we are left to settle with that,” Taylor told reporters.
Hall was beaten during the protests following the acquittal of Jason Stockley in September 2017. Stockley, a white former officer, was found not guilty of the murder of a Black man following a high-speed chase in which Stockley said he was, “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it,” moments before firing the fatal shots, according to a probable cause statement.
Hall, who is Black, was working undercover when he was allegedly beaten by Korte, Myers, Boone and a fourth officer, Randy Hays, on Sept. 17, 2017, after they mistook him for a protestor.
Prosecutors claimed Myers destroyed Hall’s cellphone to erase any potential evidence and that Korte lied to investigators about his whereabouts and actions during the altercation.
Hays and former officer Bailey Colletta had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and a grand jury about the incident. Hays admitted to beating Hall with his baton and said he saw Korte kick him in the face.
Hays faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing on Friday. Colletta could get up to 30 months at her April 8 sentencing.
Myers’ attorney Scott Rosenblum criticized prosecutors from the civil rights division in Washington for basing their case on rumors within the department.
“We never believed for a second that Mr. Myers was involved in the deprivation of civil rights,” Rosenblum said outside of the courthouse.
Hays’ attorneys declined to comment.
The Ethical Society of Police, which represents minority police officers in the St. Louis region including Hall, blasted the verdict.
“The Ethical Society of Police respects the decision of the jury, but we strongly disagree with the verdict,” it said in a statement. “There was clear evidence to convict former St. Louis City Police Officers Christopher Myers, Dustin Boone, and Steven Korte. The injuries Detective Luther Hall sustained were consistent with being beaten by multiple subjects.”
Police officers continue to escape the consequences of their actions," the union added. "The criminal justice system continues to show African-American victims of police violence we do not receive the same level of justice when white police officers are accused of excessive force toward African Americans.”
Hall testified during the trial that he suffered a ruptured gall bladder, which led to chronic pancreatitis, had spinal surgery that included two damaged discs in his neck replaced by titanium and cadaver bone and that he lost 20 pounds because he couldn’t eat solid food for weeks.
Earlier this year, Hall settled a federal lawsuit against the department for $5 million.
The verdict comes on the same day that the murder trial of Derek Chauvin started in Minneapolis. Chauvin, a white police officer, is accused of killing George Floyd last May after kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked numerous protests throughout the country seeking an end to excessive police force against people of color.
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