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Sexual assault charges against former St. Louis police officer dropped

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said the victim failed to show up for the bench trial
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. LOUIS — Sexual assault charges against a former St. Louis police officer were dismissed Wednesday after St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Kimberly Gardner said the victim did not show up to the trial.

Former Officer John Stewart had been charged with sodomy for an alleged assault that happened in 2015 involving a then 25-year-old woman who was six months pregnant.

Former Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce refused to issue charges against Stewart after the victim told police she consented to the sex act.

Gardner’s office charged John Stewart with sodomy on Jan. 31, 2018, after the victim in the case wrote what’s known as a probable cause statement.

Typically, police officers write those statements.

In that statement, the victim wrote, “I did not consent to the defendant’s sexual advances, but complied as I was in fear of serious physical injury to myself and my children, who were present at the time.”

Stewart’s defense attorneys tried to get the case dismissed just weeks ago after the alleged victim did not show up for a deposition. They wanted to ask her questions about a meeting the victim and her former civil attorney had with Gardner and several of her staff members including Christopher Hinckley, Robert Steele, Eric Harris and Devon Vincent six weeks before Gardner’s office issued charges.

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In an affidavit, the victim's former civil attorney, Kelly Chevalier said Gardner and her staff members had writing utensils and notepads at the meeting in which the 2015 assault was discussed.

"At said meeting, my client was asked specific facts about an incident that occurred on June 12, 2015."

In response to the defense's motion to force Gardner's office to provide those notes, Gardner said she did not remember discussing the facts of the case with the victim at that meeting and took no notes.

Hinckley said he did not take notes during that meeting.

Harris recalled finding the victim to contact her about a meeting with the Circuit Attorney's Office, but does not remember whether he attended the meeting and does not have any notes from it.

Vincent said she recalled the meeting happened, but did not recall taking any notes during the meeting.

Defense attorneys are entitled to any notes taken during such meetings.

"Because the victim's statements have been so inconsistent as to be essential for determining the truth, any further recorded statements would absolutely be favorable to the defendant," Bruntrager wrote.

Judge David Dowd denied the defense’s motion to dismiss the case entirely, but said he would allow the defense’s motion to compel Gardner, Hinckley and Vincent to be deposed.

Now that the case has been dismissed, the defense’s motion to take those depositions is moot.

The charges dated to an incident on June 12, 2015, in which the victim called police to report her car had been stolen.

Stewart responded in uniform and on duty and asked to come into her apartment after he was done with his official duties at the scene and began complimenting her, according to the victim’s statement. The victim wrote that she refused to let Stewart touch her, and he then exposed himself to her.

The victim said she preserved some of the evidence.

The crime lab confirmed the presence of Stewart’s DNA on a garment and a cup.

The victim's cousin produced a documentary about the incident, interviewing the victim in a hospital bed while she was battling cancer. In the documentary, the victim said she had just put her four children to bed and feared Stewart might kill her if she didn’t comply.

“I did what I thought was best and that was being compliant,” the victim said in the documentary. “Obviously, he knew that I didn’t want to do it.”

Stewart resigned from the police department after the allegations surfaced. He had been with the department from Jan. 3, 1989, through June 13, 2015.

On Wednesday, he was supposed to appear before Dowd for a bench trial when he learned the case had been dismissed.