Lawyers for a group of Gerald area residents expected to wrap up their case Friday in a federal civil trial involving a man who posed as a federal agent and Gerald police officers.
Union attorney Daniel Briegel and St. Louis attorney Bob Herman are representing about 20 victims who allege their civil rights were violated during unwarranted raids and illegal detainment by former Gerald officers and Bill Jakob.
Jakob is a Washington area man who impersonated a federal drug agent and conducted armed raids into homes. Plaintiffs allege that the violations began when Jakob was appointed as a reserve Gerald officer.
The jury trial is being held in the Missouri Eastern District Court, St. Louis.
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.
Authorities allege that the officers, along with Jakob, forced themselves into homes, placed guns to the heads of victims and illegally detained them.
“They entered houses, ransacked them, arrested them, stuck guns to their heads,” Briegel said. “They threatened to take their children and detain them, all without probable cause — all under the guise of a conspiracy.”
Jakob is serving a five-year sentence in a federal correctional institute in Texarkana, Texas. He was convicted on several counts of impersonating a federal officer.
Briegel said that the plaintiff’s civil rights were violated by former Gerald officers including then Chief Ryan McCrary, former Assistant Chief Scott Ramsey and patrol officer Shannon Kestermont.
“There were no warrants for arrest and no consent to search,” Briegel said.
The officers all 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 defense team for the former officers will call witnesses next week, and the jury is expected to begin deliberations late in the week or the following week, Briegel said.
Briegel contends that McCrary knew that Jakob was not a federal drug officer. Jakob allegedly was working with the Gerald department without pay.
“There is no doubt in my mind that McCrary knew what was going on,” he said. “He knew what Jakob was and what he wasn’t.”
Briegel noted that McCrary is not scheduled to appear in court. McCrary’s defense team said the former chief is serving as a battlefield medic in Afghanistan.
“He still has lawyers defending his interests, but it’s harder for them to defend his interests if he’s not there,” Briegel said.
He further explained that Jakob’s attorney’s fees are being paid by MOPERM (Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund), the city of Gerald’s insurance provider.
“They are unsure of their obligations as to Jakob,” he said. “So they are protecting their interests.”
Jakob is expected to take the stand next week, he added.
The city of Gerald, former mayor Otis Schulte and aldermen all were named in the suit, but the charges against them were dropped.
Schulte already took the stand and denied any knowledge of the civil rights violations.
“He said he had no idea what was going on,” said Briegel.