ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis police officer pleaded guilty to a federal charge Friday and admitted lying to both the FBI and a federal grand jury about the arrest and assault of an undercover colleague in 2017.
Bailey Colletta, 26, could now face years in prison and has agreed to give up her state license to be a law enforcement officer.
The arrest of Detective Luther Hall came during a series of protests that followed the Sept. 15, 2017, acquittal of former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley on a murder charge. The indictment of Colletta and three colleagues more than a year later alleged that some officers exchanged expletive-laced texts expressing “excitement about using unjustified force against (protesters) and going undetected while doing so,” and led to claims that investigators were ignoring the complaints of similar treatment by protesters who were not undercover officers.
Colletta and other officers of the Civil Disobedience Team ran into Hall on Sept. 17, 2017, near the intersection of 14th and Olive streets downtown, and believed he was a protester, her plea says. There was “very little protest activity” in the area at the time, Colletta’s plea says.
Officers tackled Hall as he was following Colletta’s orders and getting to his knees. He did not appear to be committing a crime, there was no probable cause for an arrest, and he did not do anything to justify the use of physical force, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reginald Harris said in court.
Colletta found out Hall’s identity the next day, and began to learn of his injuries. In June 2018, she found out from her then-boyfriend, Randy Hays, that the FBI was investigating. Hays, who is also one of the officers indicted in the incident, had found out at a union meeting discussing the investigation.
Colletta admitted on Friday that she told an FBI agent in June 2018 that she didn’t know who Hall was and didn’t come into contact with him on the night of his arrest. Colletta then made a series of false and misleading statements to grand jurors, among them: that Hall was “brought to the ground very gently,” Harris said. She also gave grand jurors “misleading and inconsistent explanations” about what she falsely called a “textbook arrest” of Hall.
Following Harris’ summary of the plea, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry said, “Ms. Colletta, is everything he just recited true?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Colletta replied.
There was no mention during the plea about what happened after Hall was taken to the ground.
The original indictment accuses Hays, Dustin Boone and Christopher Myers of throwing the 22-year police veteran to the ground, kicking him and hitting him with a police baton. Their lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.
Hall said he was beaten “like Rodney King,” according to court documents filed by prosecutors. He was fleeing from officers firing pepper spray, pepper balls and bean bag rounds at the time. Hall’s lip was injured, and he suffered multiple herniated discs and a jaw injury that made it hard to eat. He has not returned to work.
On the night that Hall was arrested, St. Louis police used a controversial crowd-containment technique called kettling to quell downtown protests. More than 100 people were swept up and arrested. A flurry of lawsuits later were filed alleging police brutality that night.
On the charge of making false statements before a grand jury, Colletta faces at least 30-37 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors say she should face 46-57 months because they dispute her lawyers’ claims that she was a “minor participant” in the crime. Her sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Colletta and her lawyers declined to comment after the hearing, as did prosecutors.
She is the only one of four officers to plead guilty. Lawyers for three others accused of beating Hall said last month that their clients would not do so. Their trial is now scheduled for Dec. 2.
Lawyers for the three other officers and Hall either declined comment or did not return messages seeking comment.
A fundraiser will be held to raise money for Hall’s medical expenses. The “Let’s Support Luther Hall” fundraiser will be held from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept 15 at Flamingo Bowl, 1117 Washington Avenue. The donation for this event is $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Food, bowling and pool are included.