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Attorney blasts St. Louis’ appeal on behalf of cops engaged in 2017 ‘kettling’ arrests

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Emily Woodbury
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St. Louis Public Radio
Attorney Javad Khazaeli said he was shocked to learn the city would again seek to have his client's suit dismissed.

Brian Baude sued St. Louis in federal court after being swept up in the mass arrests that followed high-profile protests against police brutality in September of 2017. A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, he’d left his downtown residence assuming the protests were over — only to get herded into the police’s “kettling” maneuver, and be arrested along with 109 other people.

But the city has pushed back hard on Baude’s attempt to hold them accountable for his arrest and 14-hour detainment. First they sought to have his lawsuit dismissed using the doctrine of qualified immunity, which gives police officers broad protection for their on-the-job conduct. When U.S. District Court Judge Rodney W. Sippel refused, they appealed.

Last month, the appellate court ruled against the city. But last Thursday, they asked the appeals court to revisit its ruling — with the entire appellate panel en banc if need be. The 8th circuit decision, they wrote, “raises questions of national importance in the context of policing mass civil disorder.”

Listen to Javad Khazaeli on St. Louis on the Air

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, attorney Javad Khazaeli blasted the city’s attempt to try again with the appeals court. He believes former St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker, a staunch conservative who’s been outspoken about his beliefs, is using the case to advance his pro-police agenda.

“Bob Dierker told us that the city is willing to take this to the U.S. Supreme Court to expand qualified immunity, such that it'll be almost impossible to ever hold a police officer liable for anything that they do during a protest,” he said. “And to say that we're shocked that the current city counselor, who was appointed by this mayor, has decided to use taxpayer money to expand qualified immunity …. You know, there's a difference between saying, ‘I'm going to litigate my case and make the strongest argument’ and expanding qualified immunity.”

Khazaeli said the new appeal is even more striking since the chief of staff for Mayor Tishaura Jones, Jared Boyd, had previously indicated a change in policy at the city counselor’s office — and that the city would “reconsider what winning looks like” in cases involving police abuse.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mayor Jones said the city is not trying to make new law.

“The city is requesting the court apply existing federal law and makes no request to expand qualified immunity,” the statement said. “In mediation, the City greatly increased its settlement offer — beyond even comparable cases — and have not received a response from opposing counsel. The City will continue to implement the Ahmad consent decree; since the decree was issued, neither the City or SLMPD have been sued regarding protest cases.”

Khazaeli said the city has not made any reasonable settlement offer, citing what he believes to be comparable cases. “The idea that they're offering us money that's even close to that is a lie,” he said. “I'm utterly shocked by that statement.”

Khazaeli said he is now hopeful that the city’s current tactics reflect a “miscommunication” between Jones’ office and the city counselor.

“All I know is that the person who talks to us and who is the brains behind this litigation during this current administration is the same person who titled a chapter of his book, ‘The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism,’” he said.

“If you're gonna tell me that this is the person who has decided that this is the game plan, it makes total sense to me why we've been treated like this, why our clients have been treated like this, why the city counselor’s office has been taking these tactics,” he said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, and Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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