Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled Thursday the state made too many mistakes to revoke Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon's peace officer's license - without holding new hearings.
And Laura Garth, one of Dixon
's attorneys, said Friday they needed to converse with Dixon
before commenting on Beetem's ruling - but neither Garth nor Dixon provided a comment for this story by Saturday afternoon.
On July 1, 2014, Dixon pleaded guilty to one count of harassment in an appearance before St. Louis County Circuit Judge Richard C. Bresnahan, who had been assigned as a special judge in the case.
Based on a Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation and probable cause statement, Beger originally had charged Dixon
, of Belle, with taking a four-wheel vehicle on June 26, 2013 - even as the owner told him not to - and with four misdemeanor counts, including harassment, stalking and first-degree sexual misconduct or, in the alternative, third-degree assault.
After accepting the plea agreement, Bresnahan placed Dixon
on probation, with conditions that included:
In a footnote, Beetem wrote: "Whether or not … Dixon
violated his plea agreement is not for this Court to determine.
"However, if either the (Public Safety) Department or the AHC
wish to consider it as some form of estoppel … the Court would then be bound to consider whether or not" there is any legal consequence if Dixon
had been told no one would go after his
peace officer's license if he
pleaded guilty under the agreement.
Had Dixon pleaded guilty to a felony charge, there would be no issue as state law prohibits felons from serving as a sheriff.
But the POST law also allows the Public Safety director "to discipline any peace officer licensee who … has committed any criminal offense."
And a misdemeanor still is a crime.
As part of the 2014 plea agreement, Dixon
admitted to being involved in actions with a Belle city deputy identified in court records only as C.M. - including making "repeated phone calls to C.M., as well as repeated comments of a suggestive or sexual nature and touching or striking her
genital area with a flashlight."
"(Those two officers), along with Dixon
, all provided testimony casting doubt as to whether Dixon
committed any criminal conduct.
Dixon's opportunity to submit this testimony (to the AHC) should not be short-circuited by the deficient pleading filed by the Department."
In addition, Beetem ruled, the Public Safety department and the AHC
made several procedural errors that violated the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act and, taken together, generally denied Dixon
his right to a fair hearing.
• "Speaking with C.M. and consider(ing) bringing a complaint against Dixon
as early as February 2014" - more than three months before the guilty plea.
• Allowing reporters (who were not named in the ruling, but included the News Tribune
and KRCG-TV) to cover the disciplinary hearing "and the testimony of a (Dixon) political opponent who was not even called by either party to testify."
• Releasing "a statement to the media about Dixon's
(license) revocation before he
even received the Final Opinion" of that revocation.
Dixon first was elected as Osage County sheriff in November 2012 and took office Jan. 1, 2013.
That means he's
up for re-election in the August 2016 primary and November 2016 general election.