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Former St. Louis Prosecutor Admits To Covering Up Brutal Police Beating Of A Suspect

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 27/10/2015 Matt Ferner
COURT DECIDE DECISION DIVORCE FINAL GAVEL JUDGE JU © Shutterstock / zimmytws COURT DECIDE DECISION DIVORCE FINAL GAVEL JUDGE JU

A former St. Louis prosecutor covered up a vicious beating of a handcuffed suspect last year by a veteran cop with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department that included the officer shoving his handgun "down the throat" of the suspect, who was already in custody.

Those are the shocking revelations in a guilty plea agreement released Monday from Bliss Barber Worrell, former assistant circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis, who admitted to covering up an assault by a police detective in July 2014. Worrell has since stepped down from the circuit attorney's office and now works in private practice, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The plea agreement details egregious misconduct from Worrell and law enforcement officials linked to the beating of a suspect over fraudulent use of a police officer's daughter's credit card.

During her tenure as a prosecutor at the circuit attorney's office, Worrell developed a close friendship with a "veteran officer" -- who is not named in the plea -- who assaulted a suspect on the night of his arrest on July 22, 2014, according to the plea. The suspect is also not named, but is identified as "M.W." in the plea. 

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the circumstances of the plea line up with the reasons Worrell was asked to resign from the circuit attorney's office after St. Louis police detective Tom Carroll allegedly assaulted 41-year-old Michael Weller. Weller had been Weller arrested and accused of using Carroll's daughter's credit card, which had been stolen during a car break-in. 

Worrell would resign days after the assault. Carroll was first suspended around that same time, according to the paper; two months later he also resigned. 

All charges against Weller were eventually dropped. 

According to the plea, Worrell and the veteran officer frequently "communicated and texted each other" and "often" confided in one another. They were also training for a marathon together.

The night the assault took place, Worrell says, she received several phone calls from the veteran officer while she was at a St. Louis Cardinals game. While she couldn't remember the entirety of the conversation because she had been drinking alcohol during the baseball game, she did remember the veteran officer told her that the suspect had been arrested for allegedly using the officer's daughter's credit card.

Worrell says she believes she "made a joke" about what the officer might do to the suspect. Later that night, the officer told Worrell that he injured his foot and was concerned the injury might affect his ability to train for an upcoming marathon. The following day, Worrell realized the officer had injured his foot while assaulting the suspect, the plea agreement reads. 

After the baseball game, Worrell says, she went to a bar and met with another officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. She couldn't recall their full conversation but knew they had talked about the beating that the suspect received, because that officer, not involved in the assault, told Worrell: "If it was my daughter, I would have beat him up."

In the plea, Worrell says that she did not intend to bring any charges against the suspect in the incident, but that she was present when the arresting officer showed up at the warrant office and decided to help a new prosecutor file charges against the suspect. The report from the arresting officer did not match what she had heard from the veteran officer, but she failed to tell her supervisors what she knew about the incident and filed charges against the suspect anyway for receiving stolen property, for fraudulent use of a credit card and for allegedly attempting to escape while resisting arrest.

Later that evening, Worrell went on a run with the veteran officer, who spoke in more detail about the assault. He acknowledged that other officers were involved in the beating and noted that he was glad a "loose cannon" lieutenant was on duty that night, because that officer also took part in the assault, the plea says.

The veteran officer also said that he may have "chipped [the suspect's] tooth" with his gun, but wasn't sure because the suspect had said that "he was in a fight earlier."

He also added that the arresting officer was upset because "this was the first time he had to take one for the team," something Worrell says she interpreted as meaning "lie and cover up for a fellow officer," according to the plea.

The veteran officer also offered up a particularly cruel detail: that "everyone" was laughing at the suspect, who was "screaming for help" when he was brought into the police station, likely because the suspect was told during transport that he was going to get beaten.

“An officer of the court allowed her friendship with a police officer to eclipse her public obligation to uphold justice,” Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a statement about the details contained within the plea. “This remains an ongoing investigation that extends farther than this defendant’s role in covering up an egregious civil rights violation.”

The St. Louis police department and the attorney for Carroll did not immediately respond to request for comment.

"I remain outraged by the actions of this lawyer and the officers involved in this incident, which is why I immediately turned the matter over to the US Attorney’s Office," St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post. 

Joyce added that while the matter remains under investigation, federal authorities informed her that no other members of her office are implicated. 

Worrell now faces felony misprision charges. Dickinson's office, along with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, is prosecuting the case.

Read the full plea below:

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