Second Trial of Ex-St. Louis Cops Accused in Beating Black Detective Begins

click to enlarge Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone are headed for Round 2 in the Luther Hall case. - DOYLE MURPHY
Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone are headed for Round 2 in the Luther Hall case.

The night St. Louis police Detective Luther Hall was beaten by his fellow officers, he returned bloody and wounded to his office where he caught up with his partner.

"He looked horrible," the partner, Detective Lou Naes, told jurors today. "He looked like he just got hit by a car. His eyes were glazed. His lips were bloody."

See Also: Ex-Cop Wants Prosecutors Sanctioned for Revealing Racist Texts

Naes and Hall had been working undercover on September 17, 2017, embedded with protestors following the acquittal two days before of a white police officer in the killing of a Black man. Both detectives had been arrested when uniformed riot police swooped in, arresting more than 120 people in a couple of hours. Naes, who is white, fared much better, describing his handling by police as "professional." But Hall, who was arrested separately by other officers, had been pummeled.

Naes described "road rash" and bruising on the left side of his partner's body, and when he touched Hall's shirt, blood stained his fingers. "He told me he got his ass kicked by the police."

Naes was the first witness in Round Two of the case against ex-officers Dustin Boone and Christopher Myers. Prosecutors say uniformed officers mistook Hall for a protester and assaulted him with feet, fists and batons, even as he submitted to their orders.

In a first trial, jurors couldn't agree as to whether Boone took part in the beating and violated Hall's rights. Myers was acquitted of one charge, but jurors deadlocked on a second count in which the former patrolman was accused of smashing Hall's phone in an effort to destroy evidence.

Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorneys Office decided to retry the case against the two ex-cops, and opening statements kicked off today in front of an all-white jury.

Much of the case is expected to be a rerun of the first trial, which concluded in March and included the acquittal of a third officer, Steven Korte. But there are a few, potentially course-changing differences. Notably, prosecutors won the right to introduce a series of explosive texts sent by Boone.

The burly son of a cop repeatedly sent his family, fellow officers and friends racist message during his short career, bragged about putting people in the hospital and groused about the inconvenience of surveillance cameras that forced him to drag at least one unlucky subject behind a fence to dole out punishment unseen.

Prosecutors will also be able to recount how Boone reportedly livestreamed Hall's beating to his girlfriend, whom they maintain he abruptly married in hopes of preventing her from being called to testify against him in the case.

The newly available texts are in addition to a cache of messages introduced during the first trial in which Boone and Myers gleefully talk about beating protesters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Constantin made only a brief reference to Boone's racist texts as she delivered the prosecution's opening statement, but she quoted multiple messages in which he and Myers seemed to thrill at the thought of violence.

She read a message in which Boone wrote: "It's gonna get IGNORANT tonight!! But it's gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these shitheads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!"

Another was sent text two days before Hall's beating, in which Boone said, "No stick or shield.....just fuck people up when they don't act right!"

Constantin also read a text that Myers sent as he was preparing for protest duty: "Let's whoop some ass."

Detective Luther Hall suffered serious injuries when he was beaten by police while posing as a protester. - COURT EXHIBIT
Detective Luther Hall suffered serious injuries when he was beaten by police while posing as a protester.

By the night of the assault on Hall, most of the officers assigned to work the protests were unhappy, Constantin said. Officers had been hurt, the days were long and the hours were bad. But Boone and Myers were different, she told jurors.

"They enjoyed this," the prosecutor said. "They enjoyed the idea that they were going to be in conflict with protesters."

Attorneys for the two ex-cops used their opening statements to outline a defense similar to the one they deployed during the first trial. Boone's attorney, Patrick Kilgore, and Scott Rosenblum, who is representing Myers, took turns setting the scene of a chaotic night.

"It was brutal," Rosenblum said, "windows being broken, looting."

He claimed protesters had doused officers with homemade pepper spray (the source of that claim wasn't immediately clear) and other substances, "even urine" during clashes.

"These were not peaceful protests," Rosenblum said. "These were riots, and you're going to hear all about it."

Into this scenario — one disputed by Constantin, who said the crowd had thinned to about 30 people and noted there had been some vandalism earlier — Rosenblum and Kilgore told jurors their clients did their jobs as best they could.

They say Boone and Myers were the victims of a police department rumor mill and should now be exonerated by video and photographs that show parts of the assault.

Boone, Kilgore insisted, knew nothing of the beating on Hall until later and played a brief, appropriate role in his arrest — holding him down for a few seconds until a sergeant arrived to secure the detective's wrists with plastic "flex cuffs."

And when Boone later texted an apology to Hall, Kilgore said, it was not because of any role in an attack.

"It wasn't about participating in any type of assault," the attorney said. "It's about the embarrassment of arresting a police officer."

Defense attorneys are expected to focus much of their attention on Boone's and Myers' former co-defendant Randy Hays. The ex-officer has already pleaded guilty in the case, admitting he needlessly beat Hall with a baton. Hays testified in the first trial and will almost certainly take the stand again in this round in hopes of landing a more lenient sentence.

In their opening statements, Kilgore and Rosenblum painted him as an unreliable and opportunistic witness who maintained for months that the arrest was perfectly legal — until he decided he needed to make a deal with the feds.

With Hays already admitting that he beat Hall, he also serves as an answer for defense attorneys hoping to resolve the question of how, if Boone didn't beat Hall and Myers didn't smash Hall's cell phone, the undercover detective ended up with damaged vertebrae and a shattered screen.

"Hays didn't need to do what he did," Rosenblum told jurors. "But that's all on Hays. That's all on Hays."
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