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Federal trial against St. Louis police officers could help lawsuit against the city

More than 100 people who were arrested in September of 2017 filed a class action lawsuit against the City of St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — In September of 2017, after days of protests over a police officer's acquittal in a murder trial, St. Louis police surrounded people near Washington and Tucker – some lingering from an early protest and others who said they just happened to walk by.

Police said they failed to obey an "order to disperse." The more than 100 people arrested said police wouldn't let them leave.

"We have video where we've identified St. Louis police officers pepper spraying people whose hands are laying on the ground," said St. Louis attorney Javad Khazaeli. Khazaeli represents a dozen people suing the city of St. Louis over arrests that night along with more than 100 who are involved in a class action suit against the city. 

It was the same night federal prosecutors said police beat fellow officer Luther Hall because he was undercover and they thought he was a protester.

Khazaeli believes the testimony in Hall's case will only help his clients. 

"It's ridiculous to think of the 120 people that were arrested. The only one whose arrest was improper was the random undercover police officer," said Khazaeli. 

He points to text messages prosecutors said the officers exchanged after they allegedly beat Hall. 

"They were celebrating this terrible, unconstitutional acts. And then they found out that one of their own was beaten by them and that changed the mood," Khazaeli said of the messages. 

But if the trial of officers accused of beating Hall can help his case, Khazaeli will have to wait to find out. He filed suit against the city in 2019 but said it is tied up in pre-trial "objections" by the city.

When asked about the status of the suit, the mayor's office referred 5 On Your Side to the city counselor and that office has yet to answer questions about the case. 

"If a police officer gets beaten, then the courts will try to protect them. If a citizen gets beaten, you're on your own," said Khazaeli. 

The city has already settled a civil case with Hall for $5 million for what happened that night. Khazaeli said he expects to ask for a total several times that amount for the multiple clients he represents.