Editor's note: This post contains graphic language.
Back when he was a judge, St. Louis Public Safety Director used a homophobic slur to chastise a rapist at sentencing, a newly resurfaced transcript shows.
The defendant in the 2005 case, Anthony Carroll, had been found guilty of robbing and sodomizing his victim at gunpoint. In emotional testimony, the victim recalled how Carroll repeatedly called him a "faggot," telling the man he deserved what was happening to him. The man testified that Carroll warned him not to tell anyone about the forced oral and anal sex, because "he would kill me because he didn't want anyone to know he was a fag like me."
At sentencing, Edwards — then a St. Louis Circuit Court judge — kept his comments brief. But the language was shocking.
Mr. Carroll, during the trial, I was baffled during cross-examination. The prosecutor asked you whether you were a homosexual and you were upset. You told him no. I believe your words were you were not a fag. I've consulted some of my friends that are homosexuals and they want me to let you know, whether or not you're the giver or the givee, if you have forced a heterosexual man to suck your penis and you're so gratified that you take him and put him in the bed and have anal sex with him, you are a fag.
Edwards then sentenced Carroll, who was 40 at the time, to 160 years in prison. The 54-year-old is currently serving his term at Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston.
In an interview this afternoon, Edwards apologized for using the slur, describing it as "unfortunate" and "definitely inappropriate." He says he was upset by what Carroll had done and chose his words poorly.
"I thought what he did was terrible," Edwards says. "I think today, I absolutely would not use the word, but it was a word the defendant had used. I repeated the word the defendant had used."
He insists it is not a word he uses, and only used it then in the context of the case.
He says his track record, which includes overseeing the first adoptions to same-sex couples in the state and becoming the first judge in the city to perform same-sex marriages, demonstrates his respect for the LGBTQ community.
Even so, the fourteen-year-old transcript is now coming back to haunt the former judge as he takes a lead role in navigating separate scandals within the St. Louis police department, which he oversees as public safety director.
Earlier this month, a Philadelphia organization called the Plain View Project released screenshots of bigoted and otherwise disturbing Facebook posts made by dozens of former and current police officers in St. Louis. The department was one of eight across the country targeted by project.
In response, Edwards and Mayor Lyda Krewson have promised a thorough investigation, as well as sensitivity training. Activists had hoped for something more decisive from city leaders (and the city's circuit attorney, Kim Gardner, has forced their hand a bit by saying she'll no longer accept cases from those officers).
In recent days, the transcript from Carroll's trial began to circulate online with an excerpt of Edward's statement. On Instagram, the Close the Workhouse organization — a group dedicated to shutting down the city's notorious Medium Security Institution — posted screenshots of the police officer's Facebook posts followed by the excerpt of the 2005 transcript.
"Saint Louis, These are the officers making the arrests that land people in the Workhouse," the post read. "And this is the person giving them sensitivity training."
Edwards says he has shown himself throughout his career to be unbiased and there should be no concerns regarding the investigation into the officers' posts.
Krewson released the following statement in regards to Edward's sentencing comments:
This is something that Judge Edwards is addressing. As I understand it, the comment was made as part of a sentencing hearing 16 years ago. I know Judge Edwards as a very fair-minded, impartial person.
He was the first judge in the state to grant same-sex adoptions (2007), and the first judge in the City to grant same-sex marriages.
His actions in support of the LGBTQIA community support his fair and impartial nature.
The public safety director and mayor have worked in recent weeks to persuade Pride St. Louis to reverse a decision to ban uniformed cops from marching in this year's Pride Parade. The organization had originally said it was dropping officers from the celebration to honor the Stonewall riots, an uprising that began when New York City cops raided the famed gay bar and fed-up patrons fought back.
On Tuesday, Edwards and Krewson held a news conference with Pride members at City Hall to announce uniformed officers would be allowed to march after all.
"Many of our police officers in the city of St. Louis will fall into the category of LGBTQI-plus and some in the trans community," Edwards said during the news conference. "We support our police officers, and I am elated that they will have the opportunity to participate in uniform."
On a post about the announcement on Pride's Facebook page, the comments were peppered with the image of the transcript excerpt.
Edwards says he is taking responsibility for what he now describes as an error in judgment.
"If you make a mistake fifteen years ago, or however long ago it was, you ought to apologize," he says.
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