Jury selection began Tuesday in the federal civil suit stemmed from the alleged misconduct of Gerald city police.
There are 24 plaintiffs in the suit alleging that their civil rights were violated by former Chief Ryan McCrary, former Assistant Chief Scott Ramsey and patrol officer Shannon Kestermont.
Those officers were fired following a 2008 investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol and FBI into “irregularities” in the police department.
The plaintiffs are jointly represented by Daniel Bri-egel, Union; and Bob Hermann, St. Louis. The trial is being held in the Missouri Eastern District Court, St. Louis.
The defendants in the case are McCrary, Ramsey, Kestermont and Bill Jakob. The city of Gerald, former mayor and aldermen all were named in the suit, but the charges against them were dropped.
Briegel said he expects the trial to last three to six weeks.
Plaintiffs allege that the violations began when Jakob was appointed as a reserve officer.
Jakob is the Washington-area man who posed as a federal agent while staging armed police raids in and around Gerald. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to multiple federal charges including mail and wire fraud, lying to federal officers and posing as a federal agent.
Jakob is serving his sentence in a federal correctional institute in Texarkana, Texas.
The complaint accuses the defendants of “harassment, illegal searches and seizures of plaintiffs’ personal property, illegal searches and seizures of plaintiffs’ persons, illegal searches and seizures of plaintiffs’ dwellings, false arrest and imprisonment, physical abuse and the denial of their constitutional rights.”
Statements from Gerald area residents, who were targets of police raids, led county, state and federal authorities to take a closer look into Jakob’s background. Authorities uncovered a ruse that apparently lasted over a month.
Jakob allegedly was working with the Gerald department without pay and was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a police officer.
A similar suit involving Gerald resident Tyson Williams was settled in September 2010.
Williams alleged that he was assaulted without provocation, illegally detained and denied counsel. He was represented by John Brusek of the St. Louis firm of Ryals and Breed.
Details from that suit were not made public, although the settlement award is paid with public funds.
Last summer, a settlement was reached between MoPERM and former Gerald police officer Andrew S. Rosenkoetter.
Rosenkoetter received $25,000 in the settlement.
The suit alleged that Rosenkoetter was terminated from his position as a police officer for working with county and federal authorities during an investigation, and refusing to help cover up links between the Gerald Police Department and a man who impersonated a federal officer.
Rosenkoetter was seeking punitive damages of $1 million for each of the two counts. Named in the suit are the city of Gerald, and former chiefs Clyde Zelch and Ryan McCrary.
According to the suit, Rosenkoetter was hired as a Gerald officer March 29, 2008. At that time, Jakob, along with McCrary and two police officers, conducted “six illegal home invasions.”
The FBI began investigating the Gerald Police Department of the “unconstitutional and criminal conduct” to cover up Jakob’s status as a commissioned officer.
The suit alleges that McCrary shredded evidence linking the Gerald police and Jakob, and ordered Rosenkoetter to withhold information pertaining to police raids conducted with Jakob.
The suit further alleges that Zelch “dramatically” cut Rosenkoetter’s work hours and began to “enter false allegations” into Rosenkoetter’s personnel file.