Photo by Doyle Murphy
Ex-Pine Lawn police lieutenant Steven Blakeney leaves federal court on Wednesday.
A federal judge called an ex-Pine Lawn cop a "disgrace" and sentenced him to four years and three months in prison.
"I hope you redeem yourself," Judge Stephen Limbaugh told Steven Blakeney moments before U.S. Marshals led the former lieutenant away.
Punishment has been a long time coming for Blakeney. The 36-year-old was fired from the north county suburb of Pine Lawn in 2014 after two women accused him of drugging them. He was separately charged in state court with sucker-punching a drunk woman and her designated driver, and Pine Lawn residents say he terrorized them for years.
He was convicted in January of violating a mayoral candidate's civil rights after orchestrating her arrest on bogus allegations that she'd stolen political signs. In reality, Blakeney ordered a convenience store clerk to report the signs stolen so that he could cuff the candidate, Nakisha Ford. Limbaugh noted that Blakeney hauled Ford out of her house on Easter night — and called a local TV station to film the resulting perp walk.
"That's just unconscionable," Limbaugh told Blakeney.
See also: Witnesses Recount Horrors at Sentencing of Ex-Pine Lawn Cop Steven Blakeney
Limbaugh also weighed in on misdemeanor assault charges Blakeney faces in state court. He's accused of trying to lure three young women into his car as they were leaving the Flamingo Bowl in downtown St. Louis. When the women's designated driver intervened, Blakeney allegedly sucker-punched the man and then one of the women.
A jury couldn't reach a verdict on that charge, but Limbaugh said he'd reviewed the transcripts and it seemed clear to him that Blakeney was guilty. St. Louis prosecutors haven't said whether they'll try that case again.
Blakeney's attorney, Matthew Radefeld argued that his client, who will never be a police officer again, had already been punished enough. Blakeney has been "demonized" in the media and blamed for problems in Pine Lawn and policing across the nation.
"He should not be the scapegoat for public outcry against police and police misconduct," Radefeld said, adding that prosecutor's recommended sentence of more than five years was "more than double the sentences" received by officers involved in the Rodney King beating.
He asked the judge to give Blakeney probation, so he could work and raise his two boys.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Reginald Harris argued that Blakeney has never taken responsibility for any of his misdeeds. Only a long sentence, he said, would help him understand what he's done.
"This is a person who should never have been a police officer in the first place," Harris said.
Limbaugh noted awards Blakeney had received during his career and positive notes from a psychiatrist who'd treated him, but he blasted the ex-cop for abusing the people who crossed his path. He cited the arrest of an Army veteran and minister, Anthony Telano, who Blakeney falsely claimed was carrying a gun and using heroin.
Telano testified on Wednesday that Blakeney had threatened him, ridiculed his service record and told him he was "a disgrace." Limbaugh returned to that testimony on Thursday as he spoke to Blakeney.
"You are the one who has become a disgrace," Limbaugh told him.
The judge also rejected Radefeld's request to let Blakeney turn himself in. He instead ordered U.S. Marshals to take him into custody. Blakeney turned around and put his hands behind his back, and the Marshals cuffed him.
Telano, who is also a former cop, said it was hard to watch a police officer cuffed and hauled away to jail, but he agreed Blakeney was a disgrace.
"I think the judge said it best," Telano said later.
Pine Lawn Alderman Elwyn Walls and longtime city resident Clifford Brown arrived shortly after the hearing.
"They cuffed him?" Walls asked. "Took him out in cuffs? Great!"
Walls says Blakeney arrested him multiple times over the years on trumped-up disorderly conduct charges.
"This is a great day for Pine Lawn," he said.
Brown busily dialed numbers into his phone to spread the news.
"I've got to tell all my neighbors, the tyrants that gave our city a black eye have been dealt with," he said. "Maybe tomorrow the sun will even shine on Pine Lawn."
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