Recent unrest on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s police shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, has led to the postponement of a trial for a white state trooper accused of an improper strip search of a black Illinois motorist, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Corey Alberson, 33, of Swansea, is accused of making “physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature” by pulling down the pants of Anthony D. Campbell during an East St. Louis traffic stop in April 2014. Campbell wasn't charged with any traffic violations.
Alberson, who is suspended without pay, has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of aggravated battery. His attorney did not respond to several telephone messages seeking comment.
The trial had been scheduled to begin Thursday. But St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said it has been pushed back to Sept. 3 “in light of the anniversary events in Ferguson.” The criminal complaint against Alberson doesn't cite race as a factor, and Kelly declined to discuss whether prosecutors plan to argue that Campbell was mistreated because he was black.
But Kelly said that while he opposed a defense request for a trial delay to further examine evidence, he and Alberson’s lawyer jointly asked a judge for a several-week delay in hopes of a calmer climate amid some renewed racial tensions and further clashes between police and protesters in the St. Louis area this week.
“We want the defendant to be tried on the facts, without any concerns there are outside pressure from any groups on either side of these contentious issues appearing to influence the process one way or another,” he said.
Protests and other events in the nearby St. Louis region surrounding the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of the 18-year-old Brown, who was black, by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, began peacefully before another black 18-year-old was shot by police in Ferguson after allegedly opening fire on four plainclothes officers in an unmarked van.
Nearly 150 people were arrested Monday as protests stretched from Ferguson to the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis and a St. Louis County interstate highway. A state of emergency enacted in the county that day remained in place Thursday and will continue for at least one more day, county officials said.