Suit: Ex-Alorton cop 'body-slammed' woman, held her in jail without charges

News-DemocratOctober 3, 2013 

A Centreville woman has filed a federal lawsuit alleging former Alorton Police Officer Michael Baxton Jr. repeatedly "body-slammed" her and kept her detained in isolation without charges for days in the city's jail.

City attorneys deny any of the wrongdoing alleged in the lawsuit, according to court documents. Baxton Jr., now an officer with the East St. Louis Police Department, could not be reached for comment.

Pamela Cotton seeks an unspecified amount of money from Michael Baxton Jr., former Alorton Police Chief Michael Baxton Sr., and the city for allegedly fostering a "blue wall of silence" regarding misconduct in the police department. Current city leaders in Alorton could not be reached for comment.

Baxton Jr. is the son of Baxton Sr., who was convicted in 2012 of stealing Xbox 360 gaming consoles while he was police chief of Alorton.

Cotton alleges Baxton Jr. arrested her following a dispute between Cotton and employees at TJ's Mattresses in Alorton on June 24, 2011. Baxton told Cotton to leave the store, followed her home to Centreville, then "picked her up and slammed her unto the ground and onto his squad car multiple times," according to the lawsuit.

Cotton was handcuffed, feet shackled, then transported to the Alorton Police Station where she was held until June 26, 2011,the suit alleges. No charges were ever filed against Cotton and she was never informed why she was arrested, the lawsuit states.

The suit was initially filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court in June. In July, the lawsuit was transferred to federal court. Cotton is represented by the Christopher Cueto Law Firm in Belleville. Her attorney could not be reached for comment.

The suit alleges Cotton was held in a flooded cell without lights or windows, and kept in "complete darkness the entire time confined in the cell." City attorneys deny Cotton's claims regarding her confinement.

Alorton police officers denied her medical treatment and "would taunt (Cotton) and use derogatory language towards her while she was in the cell," according to the lawsuit. Cotton had previously made complaints against some police officers in the department.

The lawsuit alleges the "widespread practice" of misconduct by officers within the police department is regularly overlooked by city leaders. "Alorton police officers accused of wrongdoing can be confident that the Alorton Police Department will not properly investigate those accusations in earnest, and will refuse to recommend appropriate discipline even where the officer has engaged in acts which violate the rights of others," the suit alleges.

City attorneys deny this claim as well.

As evidence, the suit cites the convictions of Baxton Sr. and former Alorton Mayor Randy McCallum in 2012. McCallum was convicted of attempting to possess and distribute crack cocaine, stealing $1,000 from the city, and lying to a federal agent. He is serving a 43-month sentence in federal prison.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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