Two former St. Louis prosecutors accused of involvement in a cover-up of a police detective’s “brutal” beating of a suspect were suspended Tuesday from practicing law by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Ambry Nichole Schuessler and Katherine Anne Dierdorf are suspended for their “dishonesty and concealment” of the assault by a former police detective, according to a unanimous court opinion.
Dierdorf was at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game with another prosecutor named Bliss Worrell and a summer intern when police Detective Thomas Carroll called and told Worrell that someone had broken into his daughter’s car and stolen her credit card, according to court documents.
A suspect was arrested that night, according to court documents.
The next morning, Dierdorf and the intern were in the office when Worrell entered and said, “Tom beat up that guy,” according to court documents.
In a text exchange afterward, Worrell said she shouldn’t have mentioned the assault because a coworker who was new to the office was nearby, court documents show.
“Hah. I realized we shouldn’t be talking about [T]om beating someone up in front of (another coworker),” Worrell texted, according to documents. “That behavior is not on her ‘true public servant’ list.”
Later in the morning, Worrell was on the phone with Carroll talking about the beating when she walked into an office occupied by Dierdorf and Schuessler, documents show. She put Carroll on speakerphone, and he described the assault of a man found with his daughter’s credit card.
Carroll said he punched the man’s face and kicked him, hit him in the back with a chair and put a gun in the man’s mouth, according to court documents. Schuessler then made a “racist and homophobic” comment about this, the court said.
Though Worrell wasn’t assigned to the warrant office, she went there that afternoon to issue charges against the man, including a felony offense of fleeing “to explain why the suspect was injured,” the documents show.
Schuessler and Dierdorf talked about the phony charge, according to court documents.
“We could get in trouble just for knowing this,” Schuessler said, according to court documents.
“How would they find out,” Dierdorf responded. “I’m not going to say anything.”
Schuessler was “hesitant” to report the false charges because she was roommates with Dierdorf, but she went with another prosecutor to a supervisor, according to court documents. Dierdorf was then called to discuss the matter with supervisors, and she disclosed that Carroll had beat up a suspect, according to documents.
But she didn’t tell them Worrell had told her about the assault or that she knew about it before the false charges, court documents show.
Schuessler said she’d overheard a conversation about the beating but didn’t tell her supervisors she heard Carroll describing it on speakerphone, court documents show.
The next day, Schuessler and Dierdorf were questioned by internal affairs and made similar denials about direct knowledge of Carroll admitting to beating the suspect on speakerphone, according to court documents.
Dierdorf resigned the next Monday, and the FBI started investigating.
According to the court opinion, Dierdorf and Schuessler exhibited a “pattern of dishonesty” during the criminal investigations of Carroll and Worrell.
Carroll later pleaded guilty to a felony charge of deprivation of rights under color of law, according to The Associated Press. Worrell pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, court documents said.
Schuessler can reapply to practice law in two years, and Dierdorf can reapply in three years, according to the decision.
Schuessler’s attorney said his client has “excelled” as a lawyer since the incident, the AP reported.
Dierdorf’s attorney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was disappointed in the decision and said the suspension is “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.”