Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Acquittal of Officers Denounced `I Was Brutally Beaten,' Prisoner Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Acquittal of Officers Denounced `I Was Brutally Beaten,' Prisoner Says

Article excerpt

Four St. Louis police officers escaped justice when a jury acquitted them on Saturday of beating a prisoner last summer, says the victim of the alleged abuse.

"I was brutally beaten - punched and kicked repeatedly - and they got away with it," Reginald Howard said Sunday in a telephone interview from the Franklin County jail in Union. "The public needs to know what kind of people these policemen are. There was no justification for what they did to me.

"I was so bruised my wife didn't recognize me."

Howard, 26, acknowledged that his absence at the trial might have helped jurors decide the case in the officers' favor. On the advice of his lawyer, Howard decided against testifying because of the possibility of incriminating himself.

Defense lawyers could have questioned him about the circumstances of his arrest just before the alleged beating. He was stopped Aug. 22 in a rental car that had been reported stolen. Defense lawyers could have exposed Howard's drug-possession conviction.

Howard, who was transferred to Union because of overcrowding at the City Workhouse, is awaiting trial for a felony charge of failing to return the rental car and a charge of resisting arrest when he was stopped on Aug. 22 on Interstate 64 (Highway 40).

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury deliberated 2 1/2 hours Saturday before acquitting Officers Gary Sperber, Brian Dolan and Thomas Noonan and Sgt. Donald Cummings. The courtroom, filled with fellow officers and other backers of the accused, erupted in applause at the verdict.

Afterward, the officers had a party. Today they begin trying to get back their jobs.

The four, suspended without pay, were indicted Sept. 23 on a misdemeanor assault charge of beating Howard in the Area I police station after the arrest.

The officers' supporters had hoped the four would be reinstated by Chief Clarence Harmon and given desk duty, pending disposition of internal departmental charges. The four face a Police Board trial on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, improper performance of duty and making a false report of the alleged beating incident.

Sperber's lawyer, James P. Towey, said he hoped the officers not only would regain their jobs but would get paid for the time they were suspended. …

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