Criminal Justice

Former prosecutor admits covering up assault of handcuffed suspect

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A former St. Louis prosecutor has admitted covering up the assault of a handcuffed suspect by a city police detective.

Bliss Barber Worrell, 28, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to one count of misprision of a felony, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Although the charge carries a possible sentence of up to three years in prison, prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed to recommend that Worrell be sentenced to 18 months probation.

Worrell has also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and provide truthful testimony against other unnamed individuals, Justice Department civil rights prosecutor Fara Gold said.

In her plea, Worrell admitted that she failed to tell her supervisors and a judge what she knew about the July 22, 2014 assault on the handcuffed suspect and helped file a bogus charge of escape against the man on July 23. That charge was dismissed by prosecutors four days later, and Worrell and another prosecutor resigned the same day. All remaining charges against the suspect were eventually dismissed as well.

At the time, Worrell was working as a prosecutor for the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, under Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. Joyce has called the incident “the worst thing that’s happened to me in 20 years as a prosecutor.” Joyce issued a statement to the Post-Dispatch saying, “While this matter remains under investigation, I have been informed by federal authorities that no other members of my office are implicated.”

The plea agreement says Worrell first heard about the assault the night it happened, when the unnamed detective, identified in court files only as a “veteran officer” with whom she had a “close relationship,” called her and told her he had injured his foot. The next day, it says, she realized the officer had been injured during the assault on the suspect, who had been charged with using a stolen credit card belonging to the detective’s daughter.

In a conference call with Worrell and some of her colleagues, it says, the detective later admitted that he threw the suspect against a wall, beat him, threw a chair at him and shoved a pistol down his throat.

Worrell’s lawyer, Paul D’Agrosa, said the escape charge Worrell helped file against the suspect was warranted, given what she knew at the time. But he also acknowledged she didn’t reveal what she knew about the beating.

The Post-Dispatch identified the detective as Thomas A. Carroll. Carroll, a 25-year veteran of the police force, was suspended around the same time that the escape charge was dropped, and resigned from the force in September 2014. A lawyer for Carroll declined to comment.

The Post-Dispatch reported that Worrell has been working in private practice since resigning from the prosecutor’s office, but the website that the newspaper linked to was not functional as of Wednesday morning.

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