PINE LAWN • An insurer for the city of Pine Lawn has paid more than $1.3 million to settle abuse claims against former police Lt. Steven Blakeney, who should learn this week how long he must spend in federal prison for a separate false-arrest conspiracy.
Some of the people receiving payouts through the Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund, a shared-risk pool, are expected to be witnesses in a sentencing hearing to begin Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
The settlements, obtained by the Post-Dispatch through Missouri’s open records law, contain a confidentiality provision and an agreement to refrain from derogatory remarks. Many mention claims of physical injury or pain and suffering — and some say the city would dismiss charges pending against claimants or not oppose the expunging of their arrest records.
Blakeney was accused of a pattern of abuse and false arrests over five years.
He was fired in December 2014 after being accused of having another officer pick up two women Blakeney had met in a bar and taken home. But his legacy continues to ripple through the small city.
Those two women have a pending federal civil suit that accuses Blakeney of drugging and abducting them.
And Blakeney may face re-trial after a St. Louis jury deadlocked 11-1 last week in favor of a guilty verdict in a misdemeanor assault case.
Blakeney’s attorney, Matt Radefeld, said the federal sentencing hearing would be spread across two days, with one witness on Wednesday and the rest appearing Thursday. Some of the witness testimony could turn into mini-trials.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to finally cross-examine these individuals,” Radefeld said Tuesday.
A theme common to some of the complaints in the original letter demanding a settlement, written by lawyer Stephen M. Ryals, was that Blakeney unlawfully used police powers outside Pine Lawn.
A woman from Waterloo on her way to work at Washington University claimed that Blakeney, wearing plain clothes and driving his private SUV with his children in the back seat, pulled her over in south St. Louis County, then berated and threatened her for cutting him off.
Another woman said Blakeney and other Pine Lawn officers burst into her home in Wellston without a warrant.
Blakeney was accused of following an Army captain east on Interstate 70 from downtown St. Louis, pulling him over at gunpoint, bumping him in the chest, kneeing him in the thigh and insulting him. Charges of careless and imprudent driving and expired license plates were dismissed in municipal court.
Blakeney, then a police lieutenant, also was accused of pulling over a college student in downtown St. Louis, searching her car without a warrant and damaging property in her car, telling her as he laughed, “because I can.” The student said Blakeney used her phone to send a text message to her friend, pretending to be her.
And a woman said Blakeney choked her and threw her to the ground when police responded to a fight involving her niece at a bus stop.
In all, nearly two dozen adults and children split $1,347,500 for alleged incidents from 2011 to 2014, the records show.
Then-City Administrator Brian Krueger told the Post-Dispatch in 2015 that the demand letter was “certainly discussed” when the Pine Lawn Board of Aldermen voted to fire Blakeney, although none of the allegations was part of the charges that resulted in his termination.
In an emailed statement to the Post-Dispatch at the time, Blakeney noted that he was a decorated officer who had made hundreds of arrests, and said Ryals’ letter was “riddled with inaccuracies, purposeful half-truths and assumptions … defamatory and without basis, and … only designed to achieve a monetary goal, clearly.”
Radefeld emphasized in a telephone interview Tuesday that there was no admission of liability in the civil settlements, which were with Pine Lawn, not Blakeney.
In court filings, Radefeld argued that the claims of the women who sued Blakeney in federal court were “nothing more than unfounded rumors and conjecture” and should not be a part of the sentencing considerations.
The federal criminal case stems from 2013. Prosecutors say Blakeney ordered a store owner to call 911 and falsely report that Pine Lawn mayoral candidate Nakisha Ford had stolen a campaign poster for incumbent Sylvester Caldwell, whom Blakeney supported.
Blakeney returned to the store to take a police report, and told the store owner he would have to testify in court, prosecutors said. But Ford actually had removed the poster with the store owner’s permission, they said.
In January, a jury found Blakeney guilty of conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law and falsification of records.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could face roughly four to five years in prison.
He has been under house arrest since April, when officials complained that Blakeney had repeatedly violated the conditions of his bail, including failures to report for drug testing, abide by the conditions of his GPS monitoring, show up to mental health counseling and document his employment.
Clinton Wright, Blakeney’s attorney at the time, responded that Blakeney had completed all the testing and counseling and had all the required documentation.
Since that time, Blakeney’s sentencing has been delayed five times and he has changed attorneys twice.
The Pine Lawn police force was disbanded, and the community of about 3,400 people is now patrolled by the North County Police Cooperative.