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Former St. Louis cop who beat undercover colleague sentenced to prison

Former St. Louis cop who beat undercover colleague sentenced to prison

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Randy Hays and Bailey Colletta

St. Louis police officers Randy Hays, right, and Bailey Colletta leave the federal courthouse following their first court appearances on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Hays is one of three officers charged with kicking and beating an undercover officer and Colletta is charged with lying to a grand jury to cover it up during a night of police protests last year. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a former St. Louis police officer to four years and three months in prison for beating an undercover colleague during a street protest in 2017.

Randy Hays, who is white, pleaded guilty in 2019 to committing deprivation of rights under the color of law by hitting undercover Detective Luther Hall, who is Black, multiple times with a baton and shoving him to the ground even though Hall was not a threat to officers and there was no probable cause to arrest him.

Hays said in a statement to the judge that he was remorseful for his actions, and his attorney said he was working to be a good father to his 5-year-old daughter.

“I am greatly sorry for the impact my actions caused (Hall) and his family,” Hays said. “I am a good person, but I made a mistake.”

Hall said in a statement read by prosecutors that he was an active person before the assault who was proud of his job and went out of his way to take on special projects and assignments with the department.

“Now, my outlook on life, people and this thing we call ‘cultural policing’ has forever changed,” he wrote.

He outlined the pain from wounds to his lip, jaw, tailbone and neck and said he struggles with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder that have followed the beating.

“The days I can’t sleep, I lay in my bed in the dark and all I hear is the sound of my camera hitting the ground and people yelling commands at me,” he wrote.

Hall’s family members and friends were also affected.

“The feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming,” one family member said in a letter read by the judge. “What makes it even more heartbreaking is how (proud) Luther felt being a member of law enforcement. ... He has felt betrayed, and rightfully so.”

Hays’ attorney, Greg Smith, argued for a reduced sentence, saying his client had taken responsibility for a beating that was “wrong” and “against his training.”

Smith added that Hays’ peers considered him an exemplary police officer, reading a letter from a former partner who said Hays was considered “one of the good ones.”

“Randy is a good man; he is a good police officer,” Smith said.

Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber to sentence Hays to just less than six years in prison.

Webber said he had to balance “accountability and mercy” in his ruling and sentenced Hays to the four years and three months, followed by two years of supervised release.

Hays is the first of three officers to be sentenced for their roles in the events during and after the beating of Hall. Hall at the time was working undercover monitoring a protest following the acquittal of former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley in the shooting death of a Black man.

Hays’ colleague, Bailey Colletta, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and a grand jury about the assault, is set to be sentenced later this week.

Former Officer Dustin Boone was recently convicted by a jury of deprivation of rights under the color of law for his role in the beating. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Another former officer, Christopher Myers, remains charged with destroying evidence from the scene. It is unclear whether prosecutors will take him to trial for the third time after two juries have been unable to decide whether he tried to destroy Hall’s cellphone to impede any investigation of an assault.

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Katie Kull covers public safety for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She previously wrote about local government for the Springfield News-Leader. In her spare time, you can find her cooking, riding horses or spending time outdoors.

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