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ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis police officer pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge and admitted beating a colleague who was working undercover during a protest in 2017.

Randy Hays, 32, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to a felony count of deprivation of rights under color of law.

He admitted beating him three to five times with a baton and shoving him to the ground, and that Hall was not a threat to officers and that there was no probable cause to arrest him.

Hays and other officers of the Civil Disobedience Team encountered Hall on Sept. 17, 2017, near 14th and Olive streets downtown during a protest that followed the acquittal of former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley on a murder charge two days before. It was one of a series of protests that followed the decision.

Hays could face up to 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release under recommended federal sentencing guidelines. Sentencing is set for March 17 before U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry. He remains free on bond until sentencing.

On Friday, Perry asked Hays several times if descriptions of the attack on Hall were true. Each time, Hays said, “Yes, your honor.”

Hays, who is on an unpaid suspension from the police department, will no longer be allowed to possess a gun and must surrender his state license to be a law enforcement officer.

Hays’ lawyer, Greg Smith, said after the plea that Hays took responsibility for his conduct and is remorseful about what happened.

Hays is the second officer to plead guilty in the case. Four officers were indicted in December: three were accused of throwing Luther Hall, a 22-year police veteran, to the ground before kicking him and hitting him with a police baton; the fourth was accused of lying to a federal grand jury investigating the incident.

Hall’s injuries, some of which are permanent, include inflamed jaw muscles and a cut on his lip, a tailbone injury and herniated discs in his neck that required surgery, authorities said.

The indictment against the officers said some of them exchanged expletive-laced texts expressing “excitement about using unjustified force against (protesters) and going undetected while doing so.”

Dustin Boone, 36, and Christopher Myers, 28, have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is scheduled for Dec. 2.

In September, Bailey Colletta, 26, admitted lying to both the FBI and a federal grand jury about Hall’s assault. She also agreed to give up her peace officer license and faces a possible sentence of at least 30 months in prison.

Colletta’s plea says she found out that Hall was a police officer the day after the assault and began to learn of his injuries. In June 2018, she found out from Hays, her then-boyfriend, that the FBI was investigating. She then told an FBI agent that she didn’t know who Hall was and didn’t come into contact with him on the night of his arrest. Colletta made a series of false and misleading statements to grand jurors the next day, including that Hall was “brought to the ground very gently” and that it was a “textbook arrest,” prosecutors have said.

Hall has said he was beaten “like Rodney King,” and that in addition to his herniated discs, he had a jaw injury that made it hard to eat. Hall was beaten after fleeing from officers firing pepper spray, pepper balls and bean-bag rounds.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Randy Hays' involvement in the attack. The story has been updated.

Officers charged

St. Louis police officers (clockwise from top left) Christopher Myers, Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Bailey Colletta in photos taken outside the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Post-Dispatch staff

 

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