The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously suspended the law licenses of two prosecutors in St. Louis on Tuesday for covering for a detective who beat a handcuffed suspect, jamming a gun in his mouth and beating him with a chair in 2014.
The law licenses of Katherine Anne Dierdorf and Ambry Nichole Schuessler were suspended for their dishonesty and concealment of an assault by St. Louis detective Thomas A. Carroll.
Carroll was later sentenced to 52 months in federal prison for the beating of 41-year-old Michael Waller, who was handcuffed.
Carroll became enraged on July 22, 2014 after Waller was caught in possession of a credit card stolen from his daughter’s car a few days before her wedding.
Waller denied breaking into her car and says he found the card.
U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey rejected Carroll’s insistent claim that he never put a gun in Waller’s mouth nor seriously hurt him the night of his arrest.
Waller suffered chipped teeth, severely bruised ribs, a concussion and a bloodied lip.
When Waller complained to a police lieutenant about what happened after Carroll left, the lieutenant gave him a black eye.
However, the lieutenant was never charged or disciplined after Waller was unable to pick him out of a lineup.
Carroll, along with his supervisor, refused to allow Waller to get a lawyer or go to the hospital and threatened to plant drugs and a gun on him, or kill him, if he told anyone about what happened.
No police employees ever admitted to hearing or seeing the beating, including two who demanded immunity from prosecution, which was granted.
Dierdorf was attending a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game with another prosecutor, Bliss Worrell, and a summer intern when she received a call from Carroll saying Waller had broken into his daughter’s car and stolen her credit card.
Dierdorf and the intern were in the office the office the next morning when Worrell entered and told them what happened.
“Tom beat up that guy,” Worrell said, according to court documents.
In a subsequent text, Worrell said she shouldn’t have mentioned the assault in front of a new coworker.
“Hah. I realized we shouldn’t have been talking about Tom beating someone up in front of another coworker,” Worrell texted.
“That behavior is not on her ‘true public servant’ list.”
Later the same day, Worrell was speaking to Carroll on the phone about the assault when she walked into an office with Schuessler and Dierdorf.
Waller placed detective Carroll on speakerphone as he described brutally beating the Waller over the credit card.
Carroll described punching Waller’s face, kicking him, putting a gun in his mouth and hitting him in the back with a chair before making what the court describes as a “racist and homophobic” comment.
Even though Worrell was not assigned to the warrant office, she went there later in the afternoon to issue charges against Waller, including a phony charge of felony fleeing “to explain why the suspect was injured,” according to the Kansas City Star.
Dierdorf and Schuessler later discussed the phony charge.
“We could get in trouble just for knowing this,” Schuessler said to Dierdorf.
Initially, Schuessler was “hesitant” to report the fake charges because she had been roommates with Dierdorf, but she went to a supervisor with another prosecutor.
Supervisors then called in Dierdorf to discuss the incident.
That’s when she admitted to knowing Carroll had beaten Waller.
Dierdorf did not tell supervisors that Worrell told her about the beating or that she knew about the assault before the fake charges.
Scheussler told supervisors she’d overheard a conversation about the beating, but didn’t say she heard Carroll describing it on speakerphone.
Dierdorf and Schuessler were questioned by internal affairs the next day.
They denied having direct knowledge or that they heard Carroll admitting to beating Waller on speakerphone.
Dierdorf resigned the next Monday around the same time the FBI began investigating.
During the criminal investigations, Dierdorf and Schuessler exhibited a “pattern of dishonesty,” according to the court opinion.
Detective Carroll later pleaded guilty to a felony crime of deprivation of civil rights under the color of law.
Worrell pleaded guilty to the charge of misprision of a felony.
According to the court’s decision, Schuessler can reapply to practice law in two years.
Dierdorf will be eligible to reapply to practice law in three years.
Read the court’s decision here.