ST. LOUIS, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A former St. Louis prosecutor pleaded guilty in federal court to covering for a police officer who assaulted and shoved his pistol into the mouth of a handcuffed suspect accused of stealing the officer's daughter's credit card.
Bliss Barber Worrell, 28, admitted she didn't tell authorities when the officer, identified as Detective Thomas A. Carroll, beat Michael Waller on July 22, 2014. Worrell said she filed charges without telling anyone about the assault, and she allowed the charges to stand even when she found out some were falsified. She was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
"An officer of the court allowed her friendship with a police officer to eclipse her public obligation to uphold justice," U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri said. "This remains an ongoing investigation that extends farther than this defendant's role in covering up an egregious civil rights violation."
Worrell was an assistant circuit attorney in the misdemeanor division of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office from August 2013 through July 2014 prosecuting criminal violations. Part of her job was to determine if there was probable cause in a case based on evidence provided by law enforcement and witnesses.
The Department of Justice said Worrell developed a close friendship with Carroll, who was not identified in court documents. Carroll told Worrell that Waller was arrested in possession of his daughter's credit card. Carroll told Worrell he had thrown Waller "against a wall, beat him up, thrown a chair at him and 'shoved [his] pistol down the guy's throat.'"
Worrell issued charges against Waller including resisting arrest and attempted escape, even though she knew she should have waited for another prosecutor without personal knowledge of the case to file the charges.
"Worrell concealed her knowledge that [Waller] had been assaulted at the police station," the Justice Department said. "After issuing the charges, Worrell had another conversation with [Carroll] and learned that the attempted escape charge was fabricated. Worrell concealed this information from her supervisors, allowing the charge to stand."
Worrell told prosecutors Carroll said other police officers aided in the assault on Waller and he possibly chipped Waller's tooth while shoving his service pistol into his mouth.
The subject of police brutality has been under intense scrutiny for more than a year, particularly in the St. Louis area, where teenager Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's death, and others like his, has sparked a national debate and the introduction of criminal justice reforms.