CLAYTON • A prominent local attorney could face discipline from the Missouri Supreme Court for causing last year's mistrial of an area police chief.
Keith K. Cheung — the prosecutor in Town and Country, St. Ann and Frontenac and judge in Ladue — wasn't a party in this particular trial June 3 in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
In another courtroom that day, Cheung wrote a brief note, handed it to a bailiff and asked him to deliver it to Associate Circuit Judge Lawrence Permuter's court, Cheung admitted in a pleading filed in his disciplinary case.
The note said: "Judge, you need to convict this guy. I'll explain later. Keith Cheung."
When the note arrived, the defendant on trial was Bella Villa Police Chief Edward J. Locke Jr., who was accused of employing an unqualified officer.
Cheung formerly worked as prosecutor for Bella Villa.
After reading Cheung's note, Permuter interrupted a witness's testimony and summoned lawyers into his chambers, along with Cheung.
Cheung then falsely claimed that he didn't know what case was being tried in Permuter's court, according to a set of facts filed in Cheung's case that Cheung agreed was true.
Permuter called a mistrial.
Neither Cheung nor his attorney, Paul J. D'Agrosa, returned messages on Monday.
Cheung apologized to Permuter and both parties in the Locke case, and self-reported his misconduct to the Supreme Court's chief disciplinary counsel, who investigates allegations against Missouri lawyers, according to records filed in the case.
A disciplinary panel recommended Jan. 19 that Cheung get a reprimand — the lightest form of public discipline. Cheung accepted the recommendation, which has been submitted to the Supreme Court for a final decision. The court is not bound by the recommendation.
Locke, who left Bella Villa late last year, could not be reached for comment. What inspired Cheung's note to Permuter was not explained in the discipline case.
Locke had been acquitted in two previous federal court cases in which he was accused of sexual misconduct.
One involved a claim by a woman, 72, that he had groped her breast in 2006 after manhandling her husband outside their home in the community. The other was lodged by a female motorist who said he had inappropriately touched her buttocks and breast when he arrested her on suspicion of drunken driving in 2005. Locke denied the accusations.
In the latest case, Locke is accused of allowing an officer with a Class B license to exercise full police powers, which is not permitted in the urban area. His trial is reset for March 14.