Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Lippmann

Justice Reporter

Rachel Lippmann covers courts, public safety and city politics for St. Louis Public Radio. (She jokingly refers to them as the “nothing ever happens beats.”) She joined the NPR affiliate in her hometown in 2008, after spending two years in Lansing covering the Michigan Capitol and various other state political shenanigans for NPR affiliates there. Though she’s a native St. Louisan, part of her heart definitely remains in the Mitten. (And no, she’s not going to tell you where she went to high school.)

Rachel has an undergraduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism, and a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. When she’s not busy pursuing the latest scoop, you can find her mentoring her Big Brothers Big Sisters match, hitting the running and biking paths in south St. Louis, catching the latest sporting event on TV, playing with every dog she possibly can, or spending time with the great friends she’s met during her time in this city.

Rachel’s on Twitter @rlippmann. Even with 240 characters, spellings are still phonetic.

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Missouri’s attorney general and the federal prosecutor in St. Louis say a six-month-old initiative to reduce violent crime by boosting the number of cases prosecuted at the federal level is working.

“As a community, we are having important conversations about what we can do to tackle the crime epidemic,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Tuesday at a news conference. “We all have very important roles to play in that effort. My job is to prosecute those who have broken the law and have harmed victims and their families.”

Joe Hodes, 16th Ward Republican committeeman, introduces himself to a committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday. Hodes is one of nine people Mayor Lyda Krewson has nominated to serve on the Board of Freeholders. Oct. 7, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The nine people nominated by Mayor Lyda Krewson to serve on a committee looking into consolidating government in St. Louis and St. Louis County will have to wait a bit longer to know if they cleared the first hurdle.

A committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday spent five hours hearing testimony from the nominees to the Board of Freeholders, but did not take a vote. An exact reason for the delay wasn’t given. 

Darren Seals, the founder of an anti-violence group called the Sankofa Unity Center, speaks on Sept. 24, 201 in favor of a bill that allocates about $5 million for a program called Cure Violence. The measure passed the public safety committee unanimously.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 3 with approval by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment

Funding to start a nationally recognized anti-violence program in St. Louis has cleared another hurdle. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which oversees the city’s budget, approved spending $5 million of the city’s $23 million surplus on Cure Violence. The vote on Thursday comes less than a week after the Board of Aldermen gave unanimous first-round approval to the money, and sets up a final board vote on Friday.

Children Under Fire is a series examining how communities are affected when children are killed by gun violence.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ten children have been shot to death in St. Louis since Memorial Day weekend — more than the total number of young people killed by guns in all of 2018.

The cause of the increase has vexed police, researchers and those who work with victims of violence.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced plans for the state to help combat violent crime in St. Louis and St. Louis County. Sept. 19, 2019
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has pledged money and manpower to help St. Louis and St. Louis County address an increase in violent crime.

“We know that we have a serious problem with violent crime that must be addressed,” Parson said Thursday at a news conference in St. Louis. “As your governor, and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting the citizens of our state is one of the utmost importance to my administration.”

The announcement came after a day of meetings with local political, religious and law enforcement leaders.

Bits of glass covers a sidewalk in downtown St. Louis after people broke windows on Sunday. (Sept. 17, 2017_
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis police officer has sued the city over the way he was treated while he was undercover during protests against police brutality.

Luther Hall was beaten by fellow police officers during a mass arrest of protesters in September 2017. He suffered serious injuries and has not returned to work. 

Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the NAACP in the city of St. Louis, outlines allegations that former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger violated the law around minority contracting at a news conference on Sept. 17, 2019.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The president of the NAACP in the city of St. Louis says former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger may have violated federal law relating to minority contracting.

Adolphus Pruitt made the allegations at a news conference on Tuesday. He says he started looking into whether the county was following the rules after reading a letter the St. Louis County Council submitted to federal prosecutors as part of Stenger’s sentencing.

St. Louis City Hall
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen have voted against asking residents to lift a requirement that city employees live in the city.

Friday’s vote was the latest setback for Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward. She has tried since last year to change the city charter and allow most employees to live where they would like. Elected officials and appointed department heads would still have a residency requirement.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen will spend at least part of Friday debating whether to ask voters to repeal the requirement that most city employees live in the city.

The bill narrowly received first-round approval in July. Its sponsor, Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward, delayed a final vote until after the break, to give her time to secure more support.

Parson with Krewson addressing gun violence in St. Louis on Sept. 10, 2019.
Rachel Lippman | St. Louis Public Radio

Democratic lawmakers in Jefferson City again demanded Tuesday that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson expand a special session to include discussions of gun violence, with the governor saying it will take about 10 days to work out a plan to address the issue. 

Parson spent part of the day at St. Louis City Hall, meeting with Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, as well as representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement.

Bill Miller, center, Steve Stenger's former chief of staff, walks out of federal court Friday after being sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 2:50 p.m. Sept. 6 with comments from court hearing

William Miller, the chief of staff to disgraced former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, was sentenced Friday to 15 months behind bars for working to make sure that a campaign donor to Stenger got a lobbying contract.

Miller pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery, a felony, in May. The sentence handed down Friday by U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel was at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines for the crime and in line with what prosecutors had sought. The maximum under the guidelines was 21 months. Miller’s attorneys wanted probation.

technology computer upgrade
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is getting a chance to test how smart sensors can help city departments respond better to emergencies.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has spent more than a year developing ways that cities can use a network of smart devices. Now, a pilot program with the city will allow DHS to test the plans in real life.

The Route J bridge over Grassy Creek in Lewis County is one of 40 rural bridges in northern Missouri that will be replaced over the next five years thanks to a $21 million federal grant.
Google Maps | Screenshot

Missouri has received another $21 million in federal funding to repair the state’s bridges.

Missouri was one of just 25 states eligible for the grants, which come from the Competitive Highway Bridge Program. The money will allow the Missouri Department of Transportation to replace 40 bridges on state highways north of Interstate 70.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner details her hopes for St. Louis after taking the oath of office on Jan. 6, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis judge has ruled that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner does not have the authority to ask for a new trial in the case of a man Gardner says was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Judge Elizabeth Hogan’s opinion, issued Friday, also says Gardner’s request in the case of Lamar Johnson was filed well beyond deadlines outlined in court rules and decisions. 

A spokeswoman said Gardner will appeal the ruling, and had no further comment.

Former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney walks out of court after being sentenced to three years probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme. Aug 16, 2019
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:50 p.m. Aug. 16 with comments from attorneys —

Sheila Sweeney, the former chief executive of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, has been sentenced to three years' probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

Sweeney admitted in May that she knew Stenger was trying to steer county contracts to a campaign donor and did nothing to stop it. Sweeney helped that donor, John Rallo, get a $130,000 marketing contract, even though he had no relevant experience. She also maneuvered to make sure that Rallo’s real estate company was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. 

Mary Norwood, the grandmother of 7-year-old Xavior Usanga, speaks to Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward and Maj. Mary Warnecke, the deputy commander of the Bureau of Investigations, on Aug. 13, 2019. Xavior was the 7th child killed in the city this year.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis police say they are frustrated and angry that they are getting so little help in solving the murders of children.

Xavier Usanga, 7, became the city’s seventh homicide victim under the age of 17 this year when he was shot and killed Monday while playing outside in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Two other children have been shot and killed in cases that police are investigating as “suspicious sudden deaths.”

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court on August 9, 2019, after being sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison for public corruption.
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:30 p.m. with comments from the hearing — Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for steering county business to a campaign donor in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions.

The 46-month sentence Friday from U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, which is the maximum under federal guidelines for Stenger’s crimes, is in line with what prosecutors requested. He was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine — the highest allowed by law — and will be on probation for three years after serving his sentence. 

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell speaks after taking the oath of office.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann take a look at how politics and policy has changed in five years since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson.

This show looks at how the slow change picked up last year with the election of Wesley Bell as St. Louis County prosecutor. That ushered in a new political coalition that’s affecting other parts of county government.

All 700 officers of the St. Louis County Police Department will be wearing body cameras in early 2020.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County is about to become the largest police department in Missouri to equip all of its officers with body cameras.

“I think this is an example of how we’re forward-looking and how we try to set an example for law enforcement in the state,” Police Chief Jon Belmar said in an interview on Wednesday updating the status of the body camera plans.

Democrats Rita Heard Days (left) and Kelli Dunaway won seats on the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday. They will represent the 1st and 2nd Districts, respectively. Aug. 6, 2019
Ryan Delaney, Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10:50 p.m., Aug. 6 with comment from Rita Days and Kelli Dunaway —
Two Democrats captured vacant St. Louis County Council seats Tuesday, giving their party control of the governing body that was shaken up by Steve Stenger’s resignation as county executive.

Former state Sen. Rita Heard Days easily won the race in the heavily Democratic 1st District, which takes in parts of central and northern St. Louis County — including Ferguson and University City. Days beat Republican Sarah Davoli with 84% of the vote. 

In the 2nd District, which includes municipalities like Maryland Heights, Hazelwood, St. Ann, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur, Democrat Kelli Dunaway bested Republican Amy Poelker with nearly 60% of the vote.

Members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment conduct a silent protest during a public hearing on municipal court reform on Nov. 12, 2015.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Brown’s 2014 death at the hands of a Ferguson police officer painted a clear picture of the troubled relationship between the police and the community, and also abusive municipal court practices that disregarded defendants’ rights.

Defendants were held in jail for weeks or months because they couldn’t afford excessive bonds. Others were arrested because they couldn’t pay the fines and fees, some of which were illegal. Some courts were little more than cash cows for their cities.

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court after pleading guilty to federal charges of bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m., Aug. 4 with response from Stenger's attorney —

Federal prosecutors say former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger should get the maximum prison term allowed — nearly four years — for a pay-to-play scheme that began even before he took office in 2015.

In a pre-sentencing memo filed Friday, prosecutors said Stenger, through his extensive criminal conduct, abused voters' "trust in a substantial and harmful way. He placed his own personal interests and political ambitions above all else, and engaged in a classic illegal pay-to-play scheme in order to fill his own political coffers to fuel his political campaigns.”

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner takes the oath of office at the Old Courthouse on January 6, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis prosecutor is defending her authority to ask for a new trial for a man she says was wrongfully convicted of murder and armed criminal action 24 years ago.

Kim Gardner last month filed a motion for a new trial in the case of Lamar Johnson. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1995 for shooting and killing Marcus Boyd — a conviction that Gardner’s office argued was tainted by police and prosecutorial misconduct.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner makes the case that her reforms have made the city safer at a town hall on July 18, 2019
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis prosecutor says changes she’s made in how the circuit attorney’s office fights crime have made the city safer.

“We have to stop having this rhetoric that we’re going to be able to prosecute our way out of this. That simply cannot be our strategy for crime reduction,” Kim Gardner told a friendly crowd Thursday night at a town hall. The system is going to do what it’s going to do, and that’s hurt people. And we have to look at how we stop the cycle of victimization.

Mayor Lyda Krewson touts the city's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on July 17, 2019 with Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Police Chief John Hayden. Hayden will be a member of the council.
Alexis Moore | St. Louis Public Radio

Several years ago, judges at the St. Louis Circuit Court came up with a simple idea: get everyone who handles criminal cases — from prosecutors to public defenders to police officers — together to share ideas about making improvements.

Now, legislation awaiting Mayor Lyda Krewson’s signature looks to turn an informal gathering into a professional endeavor with paid staff.

FBI special agent Lesley Edge demonstrates her firearms skills on July 15, 2019. Edge is the only female firearms instructor in the St. Louis field office of the FBI.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Only 20% of FBI agents nationwide are women — and that number is less in St. Louis: 10%.

So, the bureau hopes an event scheduled for July 24 in St. Louis will encourage more women to consider the FBI as a career.

John Rallo (left) walks out of federl court after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges Tuesday
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 9:45 p.m.  Tuesday with effort to strip pension from Steve Stenger — An insurance executive who received contracts with St. Louis County in exchange for campaign contributions to then-County Executive Steve Stenger has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

John Rallo admitted to bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services in an appearance Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Webber. He will be sentenced Oct. 15. He could face more than two years in prison, although Webber does not have to follow federal sentencing guidelines.

A Build-A-Bear employee sets out a display bear after dressing it in a new Blues uniform at at a store in the St. Louis Galleria. With the approval of a tax incentive package, the company is expected to move its headquarters to downtown St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a tax incentive package Friday, sweetening a plan for Build-A-Bear to move its headquarters ⁠— and 200 employees ⁠— to downtown St. Louis from its current location in Overland. 

After passing on a 22-3 vote, the bill now moves on to Mayor Lyda Krewson for a final signature, which a spokesman said she will provide.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks to news reporters on July 11, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she acted appropriately when her office decided in 2018 to charge former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony.

“I steadfastly maintain that all of my actions were both legal and ethical, pertaining to my investigation or my decision to charge the former governor,” Gardner said Thursday at a news conference where she was surrounded by more than a dozen political and religious supporters. 

James Clark, the vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, accepts a $200,000 check from Ed Dowd, the president of the St. Louis Crime Commission, on July 8, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A leading figure in anti-crime efforts in St. Louis says the region has 18 months to get violent crime under control before it hits a skid that it’s “never seen before.”

“We have been naive for a very long time here,” James Clark, vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, said Monday. “But the national perception of St. Louis is very, very dire. Corporations are not looking to come here. We are losing conventions. And the No. 1 reason is because of our crime and violence.”

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