It’s up to St. Clair County Circuit Judge Jan Fiss to decide whether an Illinois State Police trooper committed aggravated battery when he employed what prosecutors say was an illegal strip search on a man on the side of an East St. Louis street.
Fiss said he was taking the case under advisement after hearing testimony all day Thursday in the case of Corey Alberson, 33, of Swansea.
Prosecutors, in their closing arguments, contend that Alberson, who is white, stopped Anthony Campbell, who is black, on North Ninth Street on Jan. 21, 2013, then pulled down his pants and exposed his buttocks and visually examined with a flashlight the buttocks and testicles of Campbell.
Prosecutor Dan Lewis said Alberson “was a bully with a badge” who conducted “a ghost stop.” Prosecutor Jim Piper said Alberson had “gone rogue” and behaved “like a proctologist with a badge” when he searched for the drugs or weapon Alberson was convinced he’d find.
Defense attorney John O’Gara said Alberson was “a cop who was trying to do good” whose “intent, his knowledge, his purpose was not to humiliate or to degrade.”
Earlier Thursday, Campbell testified that he “felt disrespected and insulted” during the search. “I never had a police officer treat me in that way,” he said.
In his testimony Thursday night, Alberson said he’d gotten a tip on Jan. 21, 2013, that a man driving a white sedan would be delivering crack cocaine to Willie “Woo Woo” Butler, who is now in federal prison on drug charges. When Alberson and his partner, Trooper Chris Currier, saw a white car on North Ninth Street near where the tipster said the drug delivery would take place, Alberson conducted the traffic stop.
Alberson said he did not remember the violation but said “the stop was made for a reason.”
The traffic stop was never called into Illinois State Police Communications, Supervisor Amy Lakin said earlier Thursday.
“I violated that policy,” Alberson said.
Alberson said he remembered turning his squad car’s dash camera on but didn’t call in the stop to dispatchers because he was concerned for his safety and wanted to execute a search based on the tip he got first. He said his concern stemmed from the tip that came from Keith Lauderdale, who said it was possible that the man resupplying Butler was armed.
Currier’s testimony earlier in the day matched Alberson’s. He also was not able to recall what traffic violation Campbell may have committed to warrant the stop. But Currier stated Campbell consented to the search of his car and his person and even undid his own pants so he could be searched. Currier said Campbell seemed calm, friendly and cooperative.
“He seemed overly confident,” Currier said. “He knew that he had already gotten rid of whatever he had.”
Alberson said he “almost had to stop (Campbell) from exposing himself” and also characterized the interaction during the stop as friendly and respectful despite his concerns. Alberson never found drugs or a weapon in Campbell’s car or on his person and didn’t find anything during a search along Ninth Street after he let Campbell leave.
Lauderdale testified that he tipped off Alberson after he saw Butler at a convenience store and pool hall. Butler was going to “re-up” or resupply his crack cocaine, Lauderdale said. Lauderdale, an admitted crack cocaine dealer, told Alberson the man delivering the crack would be in a white sedan coming from north St. Louis. Lauderdale testified that he told police earlier Campbell looked familiar, but couldn’t be sure he bought cocaine from him. On Thursday, he said he was sure that he purchased drugs from Campbell.
During questioning from prosecutor Dan Lewis, Lauderdale admitted that he may have told state investigators during an videotaped interview that all African-American men look alike.
Earlier, Piper showed the videotape that showed Alberson shining the flashlight down Campbell’s pants as Campbell held his jacket up.
Campbell has no criminal record and never filed a complaint about the treatment. Troopers found Campbell after a review of dash cam video by Maj. Christopher Trame lead to a complaint. Trame testified he was “shocked” by what he saw on the video.
“We are the Illinois State Police, and we don’t conduct ourselves in this way,” Trame testified.
Terry Delaney, a former Illinois State trooper and U.S. Marshal and former Belleville police chief, testified that he reviewed the video and saw nothing wrong with the search.
“Nothing about it excites me or amazes me,” Delaney said.
Delaney testified that he was a mentor to Alberson, who used Delaney as a reference. Delaney also testified that he called the Illinois State Police director and recommended Alberson for a job. Alberson and Delaney’s nephew played football together at McKendree College, Delaney said.
O’Gara said Alberson was doing aggressive policing in one of the most dangerous cities in the country and that the policies he violated during the stop “are official misconduct. But they’re not a crime. They’re not aggravated battery.”
Alberson is currently relieved of duty with pay. He is also free on $20,000 bail.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2570. Follow her on Twitter: @bhundsdorfer. Contact reporter Tobias Wall at email@example.com or 618-239-2501. Follow him on Twitter: @Wall_BND.