Missouri Supreme Court Throws Out Deputy’s Convictions

As a follow up to my post Missouri Court of Appeals verdict regarding Deputy Christopher Hunt, here is the article published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch reporting that the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the felony convictions of Deputy Hunt:

From the St. Louis Post Disptach December 23, 2014:

Chris HuntST. CHARLES COUNTY • The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed three convictions of a St. Charles County sheriff’s deputy stemming from the 2009 arrest of a wanted methamphetamine cook.

The high court sent one of Deputy Christopher E. Hunt’s convictions, for misdemeanor assault, back to Montgomery County for a possible new trial.

Meanwhile, the ruling ended the felony burglary and misdemeanor property damage cases against Hunt.

The decision “tells police officers if you have a subjective belief you’re doing what’s right, you’re going to be protected from criminal prosecution,” an attorney for Hunt, Edward “Chip” Robertson, said.

Robertson, a former state Supreme Court judge, said he hopes the Montgomery County prosecutor, Nathan Carroz, will decide against retrying Hunt on the remaining charge. Carroz could not be reached for comment. His predecessor, Nicole Volkert, was prosecutor at the original trial.

In a unanimous decision, the high court said the trial judge, Keith Sutherland, erred in submitting the burglary and property damage charges to the jury and in failing to acquit Hunt. The court said the jury instructions on the assault charge “were plainly erroneous.” The court said state law allows officers to break doors and windows to make arrests when police presence is announced and admittance is refused.

Hunt was among four members of the St. Charles County Regional Drug Task Force who were assisting members of the East Central Missouri Drug Task Force — which serves Montgomery, Warren and Audrain counties — with the arrest of Phillip Alberternst in Middletown, Mo. Alberternst had been wanted on several felonies related to making meth.

Hunt’s 2012 trial pitted police officer against police officer and is at the heart of a feud among departments. Several East Central officers said the St. Charles County officers illegally entered the home where Alberternst was staying and used excessive force in the arrest.

Hunt was sentenced to five years in prison on the burglary conviction for entering the home. He was given a six-month sentence on the assault conviction and three months for property damage, with those to run concurrently with the five-year term.

St. Charles County officials, including Sheriff Tom Neer, have strongly defended Hunt, who has continued to work as a deputy and has been assigned administrative duties. Neer said Tuesday he was grateful to the Supreme Court for hearing the case and thankful for the decision. “This case was incredibly important in terms of setting precedents for law enforcement officers in the line of duty not only in Missouri but across the country,” Neer said.

Two other St. Charles County officers charged in the case — sheriff’s Deputy William S. Rowe III and Dion E. Wilson of Lake Saint Louis police — pleaded no contest to misdemeanor peace disturbance. Misdemeanor charges against an O’Fallon officer were dismissed.

In January, a Missouri Court of Appeals panel in St. Louis upheld the assault conviction against Hunt and overturned and sent back for a new trial the burglary and property damage cases. The Supreme Court removed the new-trial option on those two charges.

End of story.

As of the date of this posting, it is not known whether Montgomery County has decided to retry Deputy Hunt on the assault charge.

If you are really into reading, here is a PDF of the brief filed in June 2014 at the Missouri Court of Appeals on behalf of Christopher Hunt:.Hunt Supreme Court brief.

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