Randolph County Prosecutor Michael Fusselman motioned to withdraw himself from Robert Sanders' case Wednesday. He was appointed as special prosecutor almost a year after the incident in question on Aug. 10, 2012. His decision to withdraw himself was based on what he called a "conflict", which was not further explained.
"The files are riddled with Garrity protected materials," Scott Jansen, Sanders' attorney, said.
Garrity-protected materials refer to Garrity v. New Jersey, a Supreme court case that protects law enforcement officers from forced self-incrimination.
Jansen argued that the "conflict" Fusselman brought up has been there all along, and motioned to dismiss the case Thursday in court, but Associate Circuit Judge Carol England denied Jansen's motion. Fusselman's motion to withdraw is being evaluated by England.
Sanders and his wife Amy were present in court.
A new hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2013 at the Boone County Courthouse.
Sanders, an 18-year veteran of the Columbia Police Department, faces misdemeanor third-degree assault charges after a holding cell altercation that occurred during the summer of 2011. Inmate Kenneth Baker suffered a fractured vertebra after Sanders pushed him in his holding cell, as shown in a video that was published to YouTube. Baker received a $250,000 civil settlement from the city for his injuries.
According to the Missouri Revised Statutes, a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Sanders was fired from the Columbia Police Department on Sept. 21, 2011 by Police Chief Ken Burton, after he was cleared by an internal investigation.
"It is and will remain my expectation that all Columbia Police Officers will treat every citizen they contact with dignity and respect; and when they must do so, use only the force that is necessary to achieve their lawful objectives." Burton said in a news release. "The personnel action that has been taken demonstrates a zero tolerance for conduct that undermines the Columbia Police Department's credibility, or that may damage the public's trust in our Department."
In November 2012, Sanders appealed to the Citizens Police Review Board, who decided against hearing it.