A St. Louis prosecutor covered-up for a St. Louis Metropolitan cop who brutally beat a handcuffed suspect and shoved a gun down his throat, chipping a tooth, resulting in the prosecutor’s conviction.
It’s a rare federal criminal conviction of a prosecuting attorney; a charge of misrprision of felony, which requires active steps to cover up a felony.
Bliss Barber Worrell, who admitted to the crime in July 2014, pleaded guilty Monday.
She faces up to three years in prison, but prosecutors recommended 18 months probation. A federal judge with have the final say.
The plea agreement notes that St. Louis police detective Thomas Carroll told the prosecutor that as the victim, Mike Weller, “was being brought into the police station, “everyone” was laughing at him because he was-screaming for help, likely because he was told during the transport that he was going to get beat up.”
Weller’s alleged crime?
Fraudulently using the police officer’s daughter’s credit card to buy a bus pass.
It’s unknown why that made it so personal for Carroll considering most financial institutions protect consumers against unauthorized use of bank and credit cards.
Worrell, 28, has likely had a pretty easy life, her father was the popular baseball player Todd Worrell, who began his career for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986 by winning Rookie of the Year.
Sadly, the pitcher’s daughter made the rookie mistake trusting a police officer’s word without reading the written reports first after the July 22nd, 2014 incident.
She’d been on the job just barely shy of one year herself.
The now former-assistant county attorney personally assisted in filing charges under the name of Assistant County Attorney Katherine Dierdorf – who’d only been on the job for 3 weeks and also resigned.
Dierdorf’s famous father is the former NFL great and sportscaster Dan Dierdorf.
Worrell raised suspicions after she filed a charge of “attempted escape” using Dierdorf’s name against the non-violent offender who allegedly escaped one officer’s grasp.
But her charge mismatched the narrative of the police reports, which didn’t indicate an escape, but rather that two officers had “escorted Weller to the ground.”
That’s cop parlance for slamming people onto hard surfaces with intent to harm for “wiggling” while cuffed.
The crime of “misprision of felony” isn’t for false prosecution either, but rather for knowing that the Carroll feloniously deprived the victim of his civil rights, then failing to report it to the authorities or the judge at the bond hearing, after filing the charges.
That step actively attempted the cover up.
Worrell resigned her official position just two days after the beating was discovered, so did Dierdorf who isn’t being charged and is now in private practice.
Carroll, a 25-year veteran, was suspended, then resigned from his position in September two months after the assault.
He’s likely next to face charges, as well as numerous officers from that precinct.
Meanwhile, charges against Weller were dismissed.
In the United States, prosecutors are widely known to have broad discretion and absolute legal immunity for the charges against individual citizens which they file in their public duties, and rarely if ever go to jail or even face a reprimand for doing wrong.
Fabricating charges by a prosecutor isn’t unheard of, but its rare to be able to prove the prosecutor both knew of the felony and still filed charges in an attempt to cover up the police brutality.
The plea notes that Worrell had no authority to file charges, in this case against Weller, in a case whereupon she had personal knowledge of the crime too.
But this Saint Louis Assistant Circuit Attorney “took one for the team” when she filed those false charges, knowing that Carroll – her “jogging friend,” – was taking personal revenge.
She’d heard the story multiple times on a night out drinking with friends, and even shared the story with her colleagues in the office the next day, using the speakerphone on her cellphone to share.
The entire St. Louis Metropolitan police station house knew was happening too.
The officer admitted to her in a post-cover up jog later that night that, saying “he was· also glad that a particular lieutenant was on duty the night before, because that lieutenant was a ‘loose cannon,’ and partook in assaulting” the handcuffed prisoner.
In fact, Worrell asked why the other officer who accompanied Carroll looked so upset, and the veteran detective confided that it was his first time “taking one for the team,” which is cop-speak for lying to convict an innocent man who’d been brutalized.
Even after all of that, Worrell didn’t report the felonious assault to her supervisors or to the judge the following day during a bond hearing.
According to Huffington Post’s report:
“An officer of the court allowed her friendship with a police officer to eclipse her public obligation to uphold justice,” Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a statement about the details contained within the plea. “This remains an ongoing investigation that extends farther than this defendant’s role in covering up an egregious civil rights violation.”
The St. Louis police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neil Bruntrager, an attorney for Carroll, declined to comment.
“I remain outraged by the actions of this lawyer and the officers involved in this incident, which is why I immediately turned the matter over to the US Attorney’s Office,” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post.
“Misprision of felony” is nearly always limited to official abuse in modern jurisprudence, but that’s not always the case.
A Tampa woman was recently convicted of misprision and her conviction upheld on appeal in the murder of two Tampa cops, which called the 1909 law “archaic.”
In fact, the latest high profile example of misprision charges belongs to a friend of the South Carolina church murder named Joey Meek who gave an interview to CNN saying that Dylan Roof told him of his dastardly plan to start a race war.
Recently, Meek’s bond was lowered after he’d been held for over a month, but he’s still facing eight years for lying to FBI agents about how much of Roof’s plan he’d known about.
Worrell, who has been in private practice since leaving the prosecutor’s office, will likely lose her law license.
“Prosecutors are trusted to exercise discretion in enforcing the law and are charged above all with doing justice in a fair and impartial manner,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta in a DOJ press release, who along with the Civil Rights division and the Western Missouri US Attorney’s office prosecuted the case after the Eastern Division recused itself.
“In this instance, the defendant ran afoul of her obligation to uphold the Constitution, and must therefore be held to answer for her actions.”
With the former prosecutor giving a lengthy plea implicating numerous officers, one thing is certain, there will be more charges to follow.
But for this former prosecutor, ignorance will never be bliss again.