On December 23, 2014, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed Deputy Hunt’s convictions, freeing him from the 5 year prison sentence he wrongfully received. This is tremendous news and a victory for Chris and Hunt For Justice! We look forward to helping many more officers like Chris.
On April 29, 2014, the Missouri Supreme Court accepted Deputy Hunt’s application for transfer. This means the court will review his case and make a determination on whether or not the verdict in his case should be overturned. Deputy Hunt is still represented by the Honorable Edward “Chip” Robertson, retired chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.
As written in a recent news article, Deputy Hunt is being represented by three former Supreme Court Justices. Click on the link for more information.
Edward D. Robertson Jr., Ronnie L. White and William Ray Price, now lawyers in private practice at three different firms, were scheduled to argue the appeal of Christopher E. Hunt Wednesday morning in the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District in St. Louis.
Hunt was sentenced to five years in prison in 2012 for his role in a drug raid in Montgomery County in 2009 in a polarizing case that pitted police officer against police officer in court and caused a rift between the Warren and St. Charles County sheriff’s departments that continues today.
The case has generated national attention and has been the focus of fraternal police organizations that support Hunt as well as groups that target so-called rogue cops.
It also has attracted the trio of former Supreme Court judges who agreed to represent Hunt in his attempt to overturn his conviction. Lawyers familiar with the case and other high-profile lawsuits say it may be the first time ever that three retired high court judges have teamed up to represent a defendant in a case after they left the bench.
“It’s definitely unusual,” Bill Thompson, Missouri Supreme Court clerk, said. “I can’t confirm it’s never happened before, but I can’t recall a time when it has.”
Thompson has served in various capacities with Missouri’s highest court for over 35 years. He said that historically, very few judges practiced law after leaving the court and even fewer worked on cases together.
“Until recently, judges went on the court later in their careers and stayed on until they retired,” Thompson explained.
Robertson said that it’s no accident that he and two of his former colleagues from the bench are on Hunt’s appellate team.
“Frankly, I engineered it,” Robertson said last month shortly before oral arguments were originally scheduled to be heard. “After I was initially asked to review this case I called Ray and Ronnie and asked them to take a look at it as well. I asked them, ‘Don’t you see something wrong here?’ They did and they agreed to come on board.”
Robertson said the goal of having three former judges argue Hunt’s appeal sends a message to the court that this isn’t just another garden-variety criminal case.
“This case is so darn important that we want to make sure the court understands the gravity of this case and that what happened here was plainly wrong. We can’t find another case where a police officer was charged or convicted with burglary while trying to apprehend a suspect who had a warrant out for his arrest. This is an unusually important case and we all wanted to be involved,” Robertson explained.
Robertson was appointed by Gov. John Ashcroft to the Missouri Supreme Court in 1985. He served until 1998, including two years as chief justice from 1991 to 1993. Robertson currently heads up the appellate practice division at the law firm of Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson and Gorny in Jefferson City.
Hunt, an 18-year decorated law enforcement veteran and former U.S. Marine, was convicted of one count of felony burglary and two misdemeanor counts of assault and property damage by a Montgomery County jury in August of 2012.
Hunt was one of nearly a dozen officers, including members of the East Central Drug Task Force and the St. Charles County Regional Task Force, who arrested Phillip Albernerst, a known methamphetamine maker, in a mobile home in Middletown on Feb. 5, 2009.
Several Warren County sheriff’s deputies were involved in the operation and would later testify against Hunt.
At the time, Albernerst was wanted on several felony drug charges and had numerous prior encounters with drug task force officers, including Hunt who had used him as an informant in other cases.
According to trial testimony from other officers who participated in the raid, Hunt arrived at the scene, kicked in a porch door and proceeded to beat Albernerst who was naked after just coming out of the bathroom. Other accounts of the raid indicated Albernerst resisted arrest. Officers found meth in the trailer as well as materials used to manufacture the drug.
“From the perspective of police, this case is extremely important,” Robertson explained. “What happens when a police officer goes to arrest someone? Is he or she going to stop and say to themselves, ‘Wait a minute, am I going to find myself in prison if I do my job?’ I don’t think that’s right.”
Hunt is still employed by the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department while his case is being appealed. St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the county has paid for Hunt’s criminal defense and is prepared to help pay for his appeal but that private groups are also contributing to his defense fund.
Ehlmann declined to comment on retaining three retired Supreme Court Judges to represent Hunt in his appeal.
“That is a matter of legal strategy which is protected by the attorney-client privilege and I’m not going to go into that,” Ehlmann said.
A spokesperson for St. Charles County said the county paid $17,000 in legal fees for Hunt’s defense during his trial but did not have any information regarding the costs to date of his appeal.
Ehlmann said the county has an ordinance which allows it to provide legal representation to employees in criminal matters providing they cooperate fully with an internal investigation.
The county also paid $65,000 to settle a civil suit filed by Albernerst, according to a spokesperson.
Robertson said that while it may be unusual for three former Supreme Court judges to serve as co-counsel on a case, it underscores their belief in the strength of their case and their cause.
“If you check the record (Supreme Court) we didn’t vote the same way while we were on the bench together. We weren’t always on the same ideological page. I’m more to the right, Ray is a little to the middle and Ronnie is more to the left. We didn’t always swing the same way in our decisions. But we’re together on this case. We are trying to right what we perceive is a wrong here,” Robertson said.