Mistrials and not guilty verdicts declared for officers accused in Luther Hall beating

The jury hearing the case of three St. Louis police officers accused of assaulting an undercover detective during a 2017 protest issued a partial verdict Monday
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 3:31 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The jury hearing the case of three St. Louis police officers accused of assaulting an undercover detective during a 2017 protest issued a partial verdict Monday afternoon.

Steven Korte, Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone were indicted on a charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law. Korte also faced a charge of lying to the FBI and Myers faced an additional charge of destroying evidence. Officers Baily Colletta and Randy Hays were also indicted but have pleaded guilty.

Monday, Korte was found not guilty on all counts, Myers was found not guilty on the charge of deprivation of rights, and had a mistrial declared on the charge of destroying evidence. Boone had a mistrial declared in regards to his charge of deprivation of rights. The jury deliberated for more than 13 hours.

St. Louis Chief John Hayden released this statement on the court decision:

“Officer accountability is, and has been, a pillar of my administration. At the behest of the federal authorities and the United States Attorney’s Office, our Department has delayed any internal investigation into the assault of Officer Hall so as not to compromise the criminal investigation. Our Department has fully cooperated with the federal investigation and has been assured that the FBI will fully cooperate with our internal investigation.

It is our hope to now obtain all relevant evidence from the FBI to conduct a complete and thorough internal investigation.”

City Treasurer and St. Louis mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones sent this statement regarding the verdict:

“As Mayor, I will lead the charge to create a system that keeps people safe and holds our officers accountable. The work of reforming our system will require leadership ready on day one. I’m holding Officer Luther Hall

and his family in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope that sooner rather than later, we have a Mayor and a City Government that is trusted by the community.”

Alderwoman and St. Louis mayoral candidate Cara Spencer posted the following on her Facebook page regarding the verdict:

“Luther Hall did not get justice today. I am outraged. With 2 mistrial counts, and “not guilty” verdicts on the remaining counts, those involved in the egregious beating of Hall evaded justice. These officers failed him and, as such, failed us. Their conduct has discredited their pledge and duty to serve our community. The evidence against these officers may not have convinced a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, but the City recognized that the evidence against them was strong and settled Luther Hall’s civil suit for $5 million.

Those tasked with enforcing our laws are not above the law - in fact, those of us charged to uphold public trust should be held to an even higher standard. This horrific crime is an all too familiar story. Another painful indicator of the systemic racism that exists within our police force. Our approach to public safety is in need of a complete overhaul. As mayor, I will ensure that our City will no longer sweep racism under the rug. We will bring to light, root out, and thoroughly eradicate systemic racism from our law enforcement institutions.

This will not be easy; our system is built on decades of prejudice and oppression. Together, we can reshape a more just society that ensures the safety and well-being of us all.”

Heather Taylor, spokesperson for the Ethical Society of Police (ESOP), was outspoken about the verdict, saying it was a miscarriage of justice.

“Here we are police officers. I’ve been shot at, I’ve been called every name in the book for trying to do what’s right. Just like Luther,” she said. “Today a jury of mostly white males and white women made a decision ignoring evidence and we’re left to settle with that.”

ESOP also released the following statement:

“The Ethical Society of Police respects the decision of the jury, but we strongly disagree with the verdict. 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 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.”

However John Rogers, attorney for Korte, said the verdict confirmed his client’s innocence.

“But for a biased Washington D.C. Department of Justice investigation, Steven should not have been charged in the first place. So of course we’re ecstatic that he can return to the police department if he so chooses and he can remain with a reputation intact.”

Because the jury was hung on Myers’ count of destroying evidence and Boone’s charge of deprivation of rights, the government could at some point refile charges. Because Korte was found not guilty, he is free.

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During closing arguments, which wrapped up Friday, defense attorneys characterized the prosecution’s case as being based on innuendo and speculation.

In closing statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Costantin told jurors the defendants deprived Hall of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force. Constantin concluded her closing argument by highlighting the key evidence presented in the case. First of all, she said Randy Hays admitted to hitting Hall three to five times but also testified Steven Korte kicked Hall in the face. She said Hall’s injuries were consistent with a kick to the face.

In her closing arguments, Constantin also stated another officer witnessed Myers striking Hall. She also said another officer testified that Myers admitted to hitting Hall two times to another officer in a conversation as they were filling up their patrol cars at a gas pump.

She said Myers’ mindset about how he planned to treat protesters was illustrated by text messages he sent. One read, “I’m f***ing fighting protesters,” and went on to say “I’m not stressed.” A different text had the message, “Let’s whoop some *ss.” Yet another said, “I live for this.” The prosecution claimed that Myers all but admitted he participated in the assault of Hall in a text message that read, “Wanted to apologize to him personally cuss I feel bad.”

Boone’s defense attorney, Patrick Kilgore, said in his closing statement Friday morning that Boone arrived after the assault had taken place and held Hall down with a knee to his back. Kilgore also said the only evidence against Boone were his text messages but they weren’t put in context.

The prosecution pointed out in closing arguments that Hall testified he felt pressure on his back and that’s when there was a free-for-all. Hall had testified he felt, “boots, sticks and fists” hitting his body.

Constantin reminded jurors of some of the text messages sent by Boone. One sent on the day of Hall’s arrest said, “it’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s***heads once the sun goes down.”

A series of text messages between Boone and his father were entered into evidence this week. They contain a dialogue about the fact that Hall had been mistaken for a protester and was injured during his arrest. The text from his father said, “You must have put a pretty good whoopin’ on him.” And Boone responded, “Yeah unfortunately, not one I’m proud of.”

Kilgore tried to deflect the potential damage from text messages by telling the jurors that Boone wasn’t on trial for sending text messages.

Korte, Myers and Boone faced up to 10 years in prison if they had been convicted on the charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law. Myers faced up to 20 years in prison if he had been convicted on the charge of destruction of evidence. Korte could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison if convicted on the charge of lying to the FBI.