ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The top judge in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court is speaking out following the public outrage surrounding a four-year sentence given to a man who fired an assault rifle at police.
Presiding Judge Phillip Heagney cannot comment on particular cases but KMOX is hearing grumblings from the law enforcement community that this case is not an isolated one.
“It just is not the kind of thing that is appropriate for me, as a judge, to comment about,” Heagney said.
The judge says he was a St. Louis police officer for three years and has a brother who was a city cop for 35 years, adding that he “has the highest confidence in Judge Stovall-Reid.” As an associate judge, Calea Stovall-Reid usually handles lesser cases, but was assigned to the Ronnell Hood case randomly to help with the criminal docket backlog.
Prosecutors had sought a twenty-year sentence for Hood, who admitted to firing on St. Louis Police with an assault rifle in 2010, but Stovall-Reid opted for a four-year sentence instead. Judge Stovall-Reid has not returned calls from KMOX seeking comment.
“An associate court judge is qualified in every way to handle a felony criminal case the same as a regular circuit judge is,” Heagney said.
Police Chief Sam Dotson says the four-year sentence for someone who opened fire on police “sends the wrong message.” Last week, Jeff Roorda, Business Manager for the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association, called the sentence an insult.
“He was unable to kill our police officers. That was clearly his intention and four years in prison for that act insults the job that my officers do out there every day,” Roorda said. “Four years for trying to kill cops is a slap on the wrist.”