Ethics

disbarment

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Two former prosecutors with the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office have been suspended from law practice for failing to immediately report a detective’s beating of a suspect.

The Missouri Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Ambry Nichole Schuessler and Katherine Anne Dierdorf on Tuesday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has coverage, while the Legal Profession Blog notes the decision.

Dierdorf may not apply for reinstatement to law practice for three years, and Schuessler may not apply for two years.

A co-worker, Bliss Worrell, who was friends with the detective, Thomas Carroll, had first disclosed the beating to Dierdorf in July 2014, according to the opinion. Later that day, Worrell brought a cellphone into an office where Dierdorf and Schuessler were sitting and let Carroll tell his own story on speakerphone.

During the phone call, the detective said he kicked the suspect, punched him in the face, hit him in the back with a chair and stuck a gun in his mouth, the opinion said. Schuessler then commented, “I bet that’s not the first big, black thing he’s had in his mouth.”

The suspect was thought to have broken in to the car of Carroll’s daughter and to have stolen her credit card. The suspect was handcuffed during the beating, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Worrell then issued false charges against the suspect to offer an explanation for his injuries, including a felony charge of fleeing custody, the opinion said. Worrell told Dierdorf about the false charges the next day. Dierdorf reported the false charges to Schuessler, who was in the office with another prosecutor.

The other prosecutor told Schuessler that she was going to report the incident to her supervisor, and Schuessler agreed to accompany her.

After initial questioning by supervisors, Dierdorf told Schuessler that, “I told them I don’t know anything. You don’t tell them you know anything, either.”

In initial interviews, neither Dierdorf nor Schuessler were completely forthcoming about how they learned of the assault and the discussions that took place, the opinion said. Schuessler also initially attributed the “black thing” comment to the detective.

A hearing panel had recommended reprimands for Dierdorf and Schuessler, but the chief disciplinary counsel rejected the recommendations as too lenient.

Carroll and Worrell both pleaded guilty in connection with their actions. Worrell was also disbarred. Carroll was sentenced to 52 months in prison, and Worrell was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 140 hours of community service, according to the opinion and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Michael Downey, a lawyer for Dierdorf, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the suspension was “inconsistent with the facts, its own precedent, and what is appropriate to protect the public and maintain the integrity of the judicial system in this case.”

Downey said Dierdorf tried to correct “her earlier misstatements but was rebuffed by her supervisors,” and she had voluntarily produced text messages to the FBI.