Former St. Louis Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Violating Civil Rights by Assaulting Arrestee
A former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer pleaded guilty today to depriving an arrestee, identified in court documents as M.W., of his civil rights by assaulting him while he was handcuffed, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri.
Thomas Carroll, 52, of St. Louis, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri to deprivation of rights under color of law. Carroll was taken into custody immediately upon the conclusion of today’s hearing.
“Each time a law enforcement officer abuses their authority and the power entrusted to them, it erodes the public trust and makes it that much more difficult for good law enforcement officers to do their jobs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to prosecuting those law enforcement officers who abuse their authority, break the law and then attempt to cover up their criminal behavior.”
“I have zero tolerance for the actions of police officers who discard justice for their own angry vendetta,” said U.S. Attorney Dickinson. “I know the vast majority of law enforcement officers join me in repudiating this brand of brutality. This former police officer not only violated the civil rights of a person in police custody, he violated the public trust and his oath of office.”
M.W. was arrested at Ballpark Village on July 22, 2014, because he was unlawfully in possession of a credit card that belonged to Carroll’s daughter. Carroll, who was on duty that night, responded to Ballpark Village and confronted M.W., who was already under arrest, handcuffed and seated in the backseat of another officer’s patrol car. Carroll yelled at M.W., telling him that he made a “huge mistake” and “broke into the wrong girl’s car.”
Another police officer then drove M.W. to the Central Patrol police station, and Carroll followed behind in his own patrol car.
Carroll admitted that, despite orders from a superior officer to stay away from M.W., he entered the interview room where M.W. was handcuffed and shackled to the floor. Carroll began yelling at M.W., questioning him about who broke into his daughter’s car. Carroll threw M.W. into a chair and then picked him up and threw him into a wall. While M.W. was on the ground, Carroll punched M.W. in the torso. M.W. was handcuffed throughout the assault. As a result, M.W. suffered bodily injury.
M.W. never posed a threat to Carroll. Nonetheless, Carroll assaulted M.W. knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so, and knowing that it violated his oath as police officer.
By pleading guilty today, Carroll admitted that he deprived the victim of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.
According to the plea agreement, the government will present evidence at Carroll’s sentencing hearing regarding the severity of the assault, which is in dispute, including evidence that Carroll brandished his gun and put it in M.W.’s mouth as well as evidence regarding the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by M.W. The government will also present evidence that Carroll engaged in obstructive conduct in the days immediately after he assaulted M.W.
Under federal statutes, Carroll is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000.
In a separate but related case, a former prosecutor for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2015, to concealing her knowledge of Carroll’s assault. Bliss Barber Worrell, 28, of Clayton, Missouri, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony. Worrell was an assistant circuit attorney in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office Misdemeanor Division from August 2013 through July 2014. Worrell will be sentenced at a later date.
Worrell admitted that she failed to notify authorities of the assault and that she took an affirmative step to conceal the felony. Worrell also admitted that she filed charges without disclosing knowledge of the assault to her colleagues, supervisors or the judge assigned to setting a bond. She admitted that she allowed the charges to stand despite later learning that the facts that made out the charge of attempted escape were fabricated to cover for injuries that the arrestee sustained during the assault.
These cases are being investigated by the FBI’s St. Louis Division. These cases are being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri, who has been appointed as Special Attorney to the U.S. Attorney General, and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri is prosecuting these cases with the Civil Rights Division due to the recusal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri.