Jailers plead innocent to charges they urinated on inmates

Saturday, September 8, 2001

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Two jailers will fight charges they urinated on four inmates while making their rounds at the Greene County Jail.

Justin K. Hastings, 21, and Curtis Myers, 26, were arraigned Friday on four misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault. Both pleaded innocent to the charges and requested a jury trial.

Inmates Darryl Carter, Michael Wade, Zewayne Durely and Daren Rucker allege they were playing basketball in the jail's indoor recreational area on July 29 when they began getting wet. The inmates say they looked up through the metal grate roof and saw the jailers standing over them.

The inmates, who are black, have alleged the incident was racially motivated. The jailers are white.

The U.S. Justice Department looked into the incident but did not determine whether it was a possible hate crime.

Bill Whitcomb, a mediator with the Justice Department's Community Relations Service, said Friday that his department was putting the case on hold, pending the anticipated filing of civil cases by the inmates.

"We certainly know the incident occurred, that's not a question," Whitcomb said. "Whether or not it was racially motivated has not been determined. Right now, all we know is that the inmates are black and the officers involved are white."

Sheriff moved quickly

Whitcomb did praise Sheriff Jack Merritt's handling of the incident.

"The sheriff did move expeditiously in response to the situation, and the officers were removed," he said.

Hastings and Myers resigned after the incident became known. Hastings had been with the department about a year. It was Myers' first day on the job.

Their attorney, Pat Merriman, said Friday that he was awaiting laboratory tests on the liquid that was removed from the scene. Authorities, however, have said the jailers were the only ones with access to a key to the roof area.

Merriman, who formerly worked in the prosecutor's office and knows the jailers personally, said the incident is out of character for Hastings and Myers. He believes a jury will agree.

"They're your all-American boys," he said.

Associate Circuit Judge Max Bacon set the case for trial on Nov. 5.

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