- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A former suburban St. Louis police officer was found not guilty in federal court of beating two teens and an adult in a case prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division in Washington.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1qyFlzI ) reported that a federal jury on Thursday found ex-Velda City police officer Stan Lee Stanback not guilty of charges related to the 2008 fracas in a St Louis County parking lot.

Stanback faced up to 10 years in prison but turned down a plea deal earlier this year that would have resulted in a 12- to 18-month sentence, according to his attorney. Defense lawyer Matt Radefeld said Stanback also rejected an informal deal with federal prosecutors in St. Louis that likely would have resulted in probation.

The Justice Department took the case after federal prosecutors in St. Louis decided not to charge Stanback, citing the amount of time that had lapsed. He was indicted on three federal felony charges involving excessive force in September 2013. The attorney said the case was handled by a unit that focuses on claims of police brutality.

While some Velda City officers were among those testifying against Stanback, his lawyer said that jurors apparently doubted that testimony as well as the alleged victims’ accounts.

“There were just too many inconsistent statements and stories between all the individuals and officer Stanback, for the last five years, has stood by his story of what happened that night,” he said.

Stanback was accused of using his fists, feet and a riot baton in the attack, beating one cowering teen with the baton, the adult man when he was face down on the ground and the second teen when he was handcuffed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fara Gold called it a “rampage.”

Stanback testified that he was threatened by 10 to 15 people because of an arrest he’d made earlier in the day. He said he used force only to get the teens and adult to comply, or when the adult tried to take his baton.

Radefeld argued in court that the alleged victims were motivated by a potential payout in a civil suit and Stanback’s colleagues and supervisors were motivated by their fear of a lawsuit or other legal consequences. Prosecutors did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment after the verdict.

Stanback was fired after the attack and charged with three misdemeanor counts of assault in St. Louis County, but a paperwork error led to the trial’s cancellation - and too much time had passed to refile charges. Stanback would later work as a police officer in Beverly Hills, another small city in St. Louis County, but has since left law enforcement.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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