JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday disciplined two former St. Louis assistant prosecutors for their role in the coverup of a police officer’s assault of a handcuffed man.
Judges unanimously agreed to block former assistant circuit attorneys Ambry Schuessler and Katherine Dierdorf from working as lawyers indefinitely. The court found they violated attorney ethics by keeping quiet after finding out about the assault in 2014.
Authorities alleged that former detective Thomas Carroll was on duty in July 2014 when he assaulted a man who was found to have a credit card that belonged to Carroll’s daughter and had been stolen from her car. Later at a police station, according to federal prosecutors, Carroll ignored a supervisor’s orders to stay away from the man and confronted him in an interview room, ultimately throwing the still-handcuffed man into a chair before tossing him against a wall and punching him.
Carroll later pleaded guilty to a felony count of deprivation of rights under colour of law and was sentenced for more than four years in prison.
Missouri Supreme Court judges wrote in their disciplinary decision that the day after the suspect was arrested, Carroll described the attack to Dierdorf and Schuessler in a phone call.
During the conversation, the judges wrote, Schuessler “made light of the assault” and demeaned the victim.
Judges found Dierdorf and Schuessler also didn’t immediately act when they found out fellow circuit attorney Bliss Worrell filed a false charge against the suspect for resisting arrest in order to cover up the detective’s assault.
Instead, the judges found that Schuessler and Dierdorf repeatedly lied to their supervisors and the FBI about how much they knew and when they learned about the assault.
Judges ruled that Schuessler can reapply to practice law in two years, and Dierdorf can reapply in three years.
“This case involves an incident when our client was 26 years old in her first year of practice,” Schuessler’s attorney, Justin Gelfand, said. “Since then, she has excelled as an attorney and will continue to do so when she is reinstated.”
Dierdorf’s attorney, Michael Downey, said they are disappointed with the decision. He said Dierdorf has been working as an “ethical and effective” public defender since leaving the circuit attorney’s office.
Worrell, the prosecutor who filed charges against the suspect who was assaulted, resigned and pleaded guilty to a count of misprision of a felony after acknowledging she concealed her knowledge of the assault. Worrell, who is the daughter-in-law of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell, was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press