Guilty plea
2:45 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Guard charged in downtown St. Louis jail escape pleads guilty

The only person to face criminal charges in a series of escapes from the St. Louis city jails has pleaded guilty to a series of misdemeanors.

Mori Farrell was on duty in the medical wing of the city's maximum security Criminal Justice Center in downtown in the early hours of April 22, 2011. Twice during the night, Farrell failed to investigate disturbances, which turned out to be inmates David White and Vernon Collins gaining access to a drop ceiling in the medical wing and peeling back rebar from the jail windows. The two escaped by lowering themselves to the ground using bedsheets. Farrell also failed to do a required count of inmates, but filed paperwork saying he had.

Farrell originally faced 10 charges, including nine felonies. In a plea agreement reached today, seven of the felonies (for forgery) were reduced to making a false declaration, a class B misdemeanor. Two felony charges of permitting an escape were dropped.

Farrell is on probation for two years and could face six months in jail if he violates the terms. A spokeswoman for prosecutor Jennifer Joyce says her office wants to explore information that Farrell provided during the year his case was pending, and that Farrell will help if a wider investigation is launched.

Farrell's attorney, Eric Barnhart, says there should have been two guards in the medical wing that night, especially because a female inmate was being held there.

"There's a rule that says male guards are not supposed to have contact with female inmates, and so that was a another reason why Mr. Farrell did not do the full rounds," Barnhart said. "Also, he was helping the nurse out, and doing a lot of other things at the same time. He basically cut a corner by saying he did the rounds and did the count when he didn't." Barnhart says Farrell also believed, wrongly, that the jail was escape-proof.

Farrell was fired as a corrections officer, and Barnhart says his client also lost his secondary job as a security guard.