Editor's Note: The original story has been updated with more information.
Dustin Boone walks to the federal courthouse in St. Louis in June 2021.
Ex-St. Louis cop Dustin Boone was sentenced today to one year and a day in federal prison in the beating of a Black colleague, whom he mistook for a protester.
The sentence handed down by Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Webber was lower even than the 26 months requested by Boone's attorneys and a sharp departure from the ten years recommended by prosecutors and federal guidelines.
Before announcing the sentence, Webber said that Boone was being judged "for his actions and not the action of others" — a reference to the chaotic scene during a protest on September 17, 2017, in which multiple officers set upon Detective Luther Hall with fists, knees and sticks.
Boone was convicted
in June of a federal felony for depriving. Hall of his civil rights. His sentence includes three years of supervised release and an order to repay $6,900 in restitution.
During the 2017 protest, Boone was part of the police department's Civil Disobedience Team, better known as the "riot police." He and hundreds of other officers deployed that September to quell protests against police brutality after another ex-cop, Jason Stockley, was acquitted of murder in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Officers responded with force, unloading on protesters with pepper balls and tear gas in what a federal judge later described
as an "arbitrary and retaliatory fashion to punish protesters for voicing criticism of police or recording police conduct." Police also conducted mass arrests, after which dozens of people reported being maced and beaten
even as they followed officers' commands.
While Hall's mission that night was to gather evidence of law-breaking and property crime, he became one of hundreds of people arrested during the demonstrations. He was working undercover, posing as a protester, when heavily armored officers in Boone's unit swarmed him. Hall later reported being beaten "like Rodney King."
In a statement to the court, Hall said the beating left his life "forever changed" and that he remains in physical pain.
"People tell me it will get better," Hall continued. "It will never be normal. I can never put this behind me because the pain reminds me of what my fellow officers did to me."
Boone has admitted he kneeled on Hall's back and pinned his head to the pavement during the attack but has insisted he never hit the detective and only piled on after the beating was underway. While federal prosecutors argued that Boone had a more direct role in the beating, Webber took clear sides in his remarks to the court: At the beginning of Monday's hearing, he called for a correction in a sentencing memo that stated Boone had held Hall to the ground while another officer beat him.
Webber called the memo's description "an inaccurate statement of the evidence." Later in the hearing, Webber said Boone had "briefly" put his knee on Hall's back, and had slammed Hall into concrete twice, but concluded "there is no evidence the Defendant ever struck" Hall.
Luther Hall, center, speaks with his attorney Lynette Petruska outside of the federal courthouse on November 22, 2021.
However, prosecutors argued that there was plentiful evidence for Boone's mindset and intent during the protests. During Boone's June trial, prosecutors revealed a series of disturbing text messages sent by Boone that included racist slurs and gleeful descriptions of beating and humiliating people during and outside of the protests.
In an example from April 19, 2017, he texted other officers to brag that he and another officer had tasered a suspected car thief in the head.
"Dude caught a tampering 1st, resisting stealing of a motor vehicle out of the county and a TASER to the fuckin dome?" Boone wrote, adding, "Caught him in some THICK over grow in a side vacant lot, there was nobody around except me. Shaw, shithead and god... he is at the hospital now... poor guy."
Encouraged by at least one other officer on the text thread, Boone added, "Hahaha we made him tell the other officers on scene that he is a pussy! Hahaha he was puking on himself while EMS was looking at him and saying 'I'm a pussy, in a pussy.' And crying...... it was the greatest moment of my short career! Lol."
During the sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Costantin requested that Boone be sentenced to ten years in prison, and argued that the text messages showed Boone had been involved in four separate assaults as a St. Louis police officer. She also noted that on the night of Hall's beating, Boone had set up his phone so it could livestream the action to his girlfriend at home.
"He's totally showing off for her, showing how tough he is, showing what he's going to do to this protester," Constantin said. "This was entertaining to him."
The shocking text messages were often sent to fellow officers but also members of his own family. Boone's stepfather, Anthony Boone, retired as a sergeant in 2020 after 30 years on the force. He, his wife and Boone's sister wrote letters to the judge
ahead of Monday's sentencing arguing, claiming Boone wasn't the violent racist portrayed by prosecutors. Prosecutors responded by revealing the family's own racist messages from Boone's toxic group texts.
"The zoo keepers cut off the supply of bananas and they are PISSED," Anthony Boone texted
as protesters gathered in the streets after the Stockley verdict.
In his statement, Hall addressed the raft of racist texts, noting that Boone's family had claimed the messages weren't reflective of the "real" Boone.
"But they are," Hall said of the texts, and added that they show "blatant racism" and "disdain for the African American community."
Boone has his defenders. Anthony Boone claimed in his letter that he was friends with Hall, and that later he gave his stepson the detective's cell phone number so he could apologize. Records of the text that Boone sent as an apology, released at trial, showed that Hall never responded.
When it was Boone's turn to make his statement before sentencing, he momentarily turned to face the audience, and Hall, who was sitting in a middle row with family and supporters.
In the statement, Boone said his initial apology was "100 percent heartfelt" but added that he understands if Hall cannot accept it. Boone's statement never touched on the night of the protest or his own actions, but instead focused on the aftermath of the release of his and his family's racist text messages.
Calling the texts "disgusting," Boone said he would be embarrassed by them for the rest of his life. He said the texts represented "ignorant, irresponsible speech," but also argued that his family, whose texts have now been made public as well, have been "defamed" by the prosecution.
"The words produced in this case from my phone do not tell the full story of Dustin Boone," he said, and, addressing Hall, added, "I’m sorry you had to read those words; please forgive me."
While sentenced to a year in prison, the additional day means that he can qualify for "good time" credit
, which gives him a chance to further reduce his sentence with good behavior.
Boone and four other city police officers were eventually indicted in the attack on Hall. Ex-officer Randy Hays pleaded guilty and admitted bludgeoning Hall with a baton and kicking him. Bailey Colletta, who was dating Hays, also pleaded guilty, admitting she lied to a grand jury as part of the attempted coverup.
Hays, who testified against Boone at his first trial, was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison. Colletta got two days behind bars and probation.
Officer Steven Korte was acquitted, and jurors split on charges against ex-officer Christopher Myers during two trials, acquitting him of one charge and failing to reach a decision on another. He's expected to plea to a misdemeanor rather than face a third trial.
In Hall's statement before Boone's sentencing, he said the punishments meted out to Hays and Colleta were an example of "leniency" not shown to Black defendants. He told Webber that Boone's sentence could send a "strong message" to the law enforcement community and that the "culture of excessive force" in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department would continue unless officers are held accountable.
Hall and his attorneys did not make any statement after the sentencing.
Heather Taylor, a retired SLMPD homicide detective and former president of the Ethical Society of Police, has been a frequent presence in the courtroom through the multiple trials against the officers implicated in Hall's beating. She now works as a senior adviser to St. Louis Public Safety Director Dan Isom.
Outside the federal courthouse after the hearing, Taylor said the twelve-month sentence "is not going to help SLMPD."
"What I take from this, as a citizen of St. Louis, is that if you're a white officer, and you have racism in your heart and spirit, and you attack someone clearly because they're African American, you can show up before this judge in particular and he's going to give you the least amount of time possible," she said. "He will not take into account how that affects the people that live in the city."
Hall settled a civil lawsuit against the city for $5 million. He is still seeking materials gathered during the investigation as he continues to pursue a civil suit against individual officers, including Boone. On Monday, before the sentencing hearing, Webber ruled that some of those materials, including full transcripts of witness testimony to the grand jury, will remain sealed.
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