The city of St. Louis allegedly forced about 3,500 people charged with resisting arrest either to sign a release document barring them from filing lawsuits in their arrests or take their chances on the charges in court.
Attorneys Jermaine Wooten and Daniel Dailey are now asking anyone who has signed the city’s release agreement to contact Wooten’s law firm, the Legal Solution Group, according to the St. Louis American.
The attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit Feb. 5 alleging that the city counselor’s office led by Julian Bush, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the mayor’s office deprived people of their civil rights by making them sign the agreements, the newspaper reported.
“The issue isn’t necessarily the police department,” Dailey said. “It’s how the police department gets away with what they do.”
The lead plaintiff in suit is Lakenia Mahdi, a Black stay-at-home mother of three who was holding her 1-month-old daughter when she came to the attention of three white cops, according to the suit the St. Louis American obtained.
Mahdi was recording the officers allegedly violating the civil rights of a group of 10- and 12-year-old Black boys Jan. 14, 2016, attorneys said in the suit.
They also alleged an officer trying to get Mahdi’s phone arrested her when she wouldn’t turn it over and tried to “snatch” her infant from her arms.
Mahdi “made it clear that she was not resisting arrest, but her child was only one month old,” attorneys stated in the lawsuit.
The officer allegedly tried to break the woman’s finger to get her phone and ultimately deleted the video she took at the scene, attorneys alleged in the lawsuit.
Mahdi was also allegedly denied medical care when she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed her baby in jail.
But when the woman appeared in court on March 1, 2016 without a defense attorney, a prosecutor told her she would go to jail if she didn’t sign a release form she didn’t even have time to read, attorneys alleged in the lawsuit.
When she signed the document, the prosecutor said he could recommend her charge be reduced to littering on public property, according to the lawsuit.
In a similar suit, Wooten and Dailey alleged St. Louis Police Officer Adam Feaman used a flashlight to hit Jamal White, an unarmed Black man, in the face and crack his jaw Aug. 14, 2017.
The incident caught on a bystander’s camera stemmed from an allegation White violated a loud noise ordinance for “squealing his tires,” Wooten told local news outlets.
White was also presented with the release form, his attorneys told the St. Louis American.
“That’s when we started asking, ‘Why would he have to sign that if you’ve seen the video?” Dailey said. “And that’s when prosecutors explained that ‘this is just our policy.’ Most secrets are in plain sight.
“And this one here was very well known to everyone. It never dawned on anyone that the blanket policy and practice was illegal.”
Feaman ended up charged with assault in the second-degree and armed criminal action, according to KMOV.
Wooten and Dailey, however, began stringing together pieces for a larger suit, according to the St. Louis American. They have filed a motion to consolidate all their cases related to the alleged blanket practice.
Bush denied the allegations in a statement to The St. Louis American and called the “blanket policy” illegal.
“And I can tell you that I certainly have never made a policy that charges of resisting arrest and interfering with arrest cannot be dismissed or plea bargained without execution of a release if circumstances suggest that this would be a just or expedient result,” Bush said.