A Missouri jury has awarded $19 million to a 24-year police-force veteran in an employment discrimination case where the plaintiff repeatedly was passed over for promotion and told to "tone down your gayness." Based on our research, that is an extraordinarily high award in an employment case, and according to new reports, jurors based it, in part, on what appeared to be flagrantly false statements under oath by police witnesses for the defense. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell has vowed to review transcripts as part of a perjury investigation.
In many states, discrimination cases are heard in federal court, but Missouri has a Human Rights Commission that opens a path for such cases to be heard in state court.
As for possible perjury by police witnesses, that is an issue that hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. We saw multiple Greene County deputies lie under oath in the trial of bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges brought against my wife, Carol, after they conducted an unlawful eviction on our home that ended with an unidentified officer slamming Carol to the ground and yanking so violently on her limbs he broke her left arm -- a comminuted fracture, which means the bone was broken in more than two places.
Audio evidence shows that Officer Scott Harrison clearly committed perjury in Carol's case. At least three other cop witnesses (Debi Wade, Jeremy Lynn, Christian Conrad) made statements under oath that were so wildly inconsistent from their written reports that they might also amount to perjury.
[Last] Friday, a St. Louis County jury awarded $19 million dollars to a St. Louis County police sergeant who said the department repeatedly passed him over for promotions because he is gay.
Sgt. Keith Wildhaber filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department in 2017 in which he claims he was told he should “tone down [his] gayness” if he ever wanted to be promoted to lieutenant.
Wildhaber has worked for the police department since 1994. The lawsuit details dozens of times where Wildhaber was passed over for a promotion despite positive feedback about his work performance.
The lawsuit details an incident in 2014 when Sgt. Wildhaber spoke to John Saracino, a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners at the time, about his application for a promotion.
“The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt [i.e. get a promotion], you should tone down your gayness,” the lawsuit reads.
The discrimination lawsuit went to trial [last] week and on Friday, a jury awarded Wildhaber nearly $20 million. Multiple officers and Chief John Belmar took the stand in the trial. Now there are calls for changes in leadership in the police department.
Wildhaber, after filing his complaint, was transferred to a less desirable precinct, on a later shift, tripling his commute time. From the New York Daily News:
The week-long trial, which ended Friday, included testimony about several times Sgt. Keith Wildhaber was denied a promotion, about the use of demeaning, homophobic terms to refer to him, as well as the retaliation he faced, after filing a complaint.
Additionally, accounts from fellow department employees, who were witnesses to the discrimination he faced, made for a lively and dramatic Hollywood-like trial.
In about three hours of deliberation, the jury sided with Wildhaber on both the discrimination and retaliation counts. It awarded him $1.9 million in actual damages, and $10 million in punitive damages on the discrimination allegation; as well as $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for the retaliation allegations.
“We wanted to send a message,” juror No. 4 said of the verdict, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch “If you discriminate you are going to pay a big price. … You can’t defend the indefensible.”
What did the New York Daily News mean by a "dramatic Hollywood-like trial"? That apparently is a reference to one or more officers who got caught providing perjured testimony. From the Daily News account:
Wildhaber said he was passed over a promotion 23 times. After he filed an EEOC complaint, he alleges he was retaliated against and transferred to another, less desirable precinct.
“Defendant believes plaintiff’s behavior, mannerisms, and/or appearance do not fit the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be,” the lawsuit read.
In the trial, Dana Woodland, the girlfriend of an St. Louis police officer, corroborated his story, saying that he was referred to as “fruity” by police Capt. Guy Means in 2015, and added that Means told her that Wildhaber would never get a promotion because he was “way too out there with his gayness and he needed to tone it down if he wanted a white shirt.,” a term that refers to a higher position in the force.
Means testified Thursday claiming he didn’t even know Woodland, and said that he didn’t recall attending the 2015 event, when he had supposedly used the derogatory term to refer to Wildhaber.
The following day, in a scene that could’ve been written to a clichéd court drama, Woodland produced a set of three pictures showing Means and Woodland posing for a photo booth shoot, taken at a St. Louis County Police Welfare fund-raiser, where the two can be seen smiling and hugging.
Russ Riggan, Wildhaber's attorney, said Means' testimony destroyed any credibility police witnesses might have had. From a report at lgbtqnation.com:
Riggan told the jurors, “[Means] blatantly perjured himself.… How credible are the rest of their witnesses? You don’t think they sent other people in here to lie? They will stop at nothing to bury this case.”
Means' testimony shows that some cops will testify falsely under oath with stunning casualness. We already have seen that, thanks to Greene County deputy Scott Harrison in Carol's trial. From a September 2019 post:
Harrison's false statement under oath is one of several such statements cop-witnesses for the state made in Carol's trial. But Harrison's is the one we can prove -- right this minute, with no additional investigation or discovery -- is perjurious. Other deputies' sketchy statements generally were inconsistent -- their trial testimony differed from written statements in incident reports -- so it would take some research to determine what might rise to the level of perjury. Either way, they apparently committed perjury or filed false police reports, both of which are crimes.
At least one statement from Harrison -- the deputy who burst into our apartment and pointed an assault rifle at my head during an unlawful eviction in September 2015 -- leaves no doubt. This is from page 3 of Judge Jerry Harmison Jr.'s judgment in Carol's case: (The judgment and Carol's Motion to Vacate Judgment That Was Procured by Fraud, Perjury, etc. are embedded at the end of this post.)
Harrison stated he initially focused on Roger Shuler once the front door was open because Roger Shuler had called and expressed threats to law enforcement on August 12, 2015.
We have recorded evidence that Harrison's statement is false, and we presented that evidence in a recent post, with more relevant posts to come. (The video/audio is embedded at the end of this post.)
Could one or more cop witnesses wind up behind bars for committing perjury in the Keith Wildhaber case? The answer appears to be yes. The same could hold true for Scott Harrison and at least three of his Greene County colleagues who made false or inconsistent statements in Carol's case.