MONTGOMERY CITY, MO. (KTVI) – It`s a case that’s pitting cop against cop. Tuesday night, Montgomery County Prosecutor, Nicole Volkert, laid out the case for FOX2.
She contended St. Charles County Sheriff’s Deputy, Chris Hunt, 38, and not a known meth suspect, was the criminal in an incident from February of 2009.
She had the jury verdict and conviction to back it up.
‘I don`t believe people should be punished by the fists and kicks of police officers,’ Volkert said.
She re-opened the case files to show FOX 2 a side of the story she says the ‘Hunt for Justice’ campaign conveniently overlooks. ‘Hunt for Justice’ is a group of Hunt`s supporters who are raising money for Hunt`s defense fund and offering a reward for information leading to his conviction being overturned.
Police organizations statewide have endorsed the effort.
Volkert said, Hunt, a 19-year police veteran and former Marine Corp MP, was a cop who had excessively beaten suspects more than once.
She said a woman agreed to lead police to a drug suspect on the night in question but only if Hunt wasn`t there.
The suspect was the woman`s boyfriend.
She led nearly a dozen officers to his trailer outside of Middletown (pronounced Middleton) in rural Montgomery County.
The suspect was wanted for endangering a child who suffered chemical burns from the suspect`s meth making supplies.
‘(The woman) thought Chris Hunt would kill her boyfriend if he found him. She was afraid that he would assault him. Chris Hunt had assaulted this victim in the past,’ Volkert said.
Hunt`s supporters say his record is spotless. He`s received commendations for heroic, ‘by-the-book’, police work.
‘I never thought that he would be labeled a criminal: someone that he`s dedicated to protecting the rest of us from,’ his wife, Jesse Hunt, told Fox 2 in an exclusive interview.
She would not comment on specifics of the case based on advice from her husband`s attorney.
Chris Hunt would not comment at all, based on that advice.
That two have been married 17 years and have two children: a boy, 4, and a girl, 9.
Volkert said Hunt went too far during the arrest; kicking the door in with no warrant and beating the suspect to the extent that officers at the scene testified it was excessive.
‘I do believe those officers that testified at trial were brave in that they witnessed someone committing a crime who happened to be a police officer and they were brave enough to tell the truth,’ Volkert said. ‘The 8 police officers that were called by the state, one other police officer called by the defense, as well as both the victim and his girlfriend who were present, told a version of events that were very different from Chris Hunt, and show that Chris Hunt`s story was not true. ‘
But a key witness against Hunt at trial initially said Hunt`s story was true.
In his police report and in a subsequent legal deposition, he said the suspect, who was cut and bruised but not seriously injured, had obviously resisted arrest.
‘With him resisting arrest, the subject trying to close the bathroom door on him; him being taken to the ground with him kicking and flailing his arms,’ said Hunt`s trial attorney, Joe McCulloch.
‘If a key witness in your case changed his story to some extent, that doesn`t matter?’ FOX 2`s Andy Banker asked Volkert.
‘I don`t believe a witness changed his story. I don`t recall that,’ Volkert responded.
‘When you believe in something and you fight to make a difference and you just have this passion, I almost feel like we`ve been betrayed,’ Hunt`s wife said, crying.
Hunt was convicted of burglary and misdemeanor assault and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
He refused to accept plea bargain under which he would have avoided prison and received probation.
Volkert pointed that Missouri Highway Patrol conducted the investigation that led to the charges against Hunt, who`s free on bond and working administrative duty, pending appeal.
This case may be good news for criminals. Volkert admitted sheriff’s departments like St. Charles County and Lincoln County, wer refusing to help police in smaller counties like Montgomery, when needed.