In re: AMBRY NICHOLE SCHUESSLER, Respondent. In re: KATHERINE ANNE DIERDORF, Respondent.
ORIGINAL DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING
Patricia Breckenridge, Judge.
Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC) seeks to
discipline the law licenses of Ambry Nichole Schuessler and
Katherine Anne Dierdorf for multiple violations of the rules
of professional conduct in relation to their dishonesty about
and concealment of a brutal assault of a suspect in custody
by a police detective and the charges resulting therefrom
filed by their friend and co-assistant circuit attorney. At
the time of the incidents, Ms. Schuessler and Ms. Dierdorf
were serving as assistant circuit attorneys with the office
of the circuit attorney of the city of St. Louis (OCA).
preponderance of the evidence proves Ms. Dierdorf violated
Rules 4-1.13, 4-8.4(c), and 4-8.4(d) by failing to disclose
information regarding the co-assistant circuit attorney's
knowledge of and conduct following the police detective's
assault of the suspect in custody. The preponderance of the
evidence further establishes Ms. Schuessler violated Rule
4-8.4(g) by making a racist and homophobic comment about the
suspect's assault and Rules 4-8.4(c) and 4-8.4(d) by
failing to disclose her knowledge of the assault by the
police detective and her repeated dishonesty during the
investigation and prosecution of the police detective.
Court finds the severity of Ms. Dierdorf's misconduct as
a result of her dishonesty and instruction of others to
conceal information about the incident justifies the
imposition of an indefinite suspension with no leave to apply
for reinstatement for three years. Similarly, Ms.
Schuessler's repeated dishonesty during and interference
with the federal prosecution of the police detective justify
the imposition of an indefinite suspension with no leave to
apply for reinstatement for two years.
and Procedural History
2011, Ms. Dierdorf became licensed to practice law in
Missouri. In February 2014, Ms. Dierdorf accepted a position
as an assistant circuit attorney with OCA. Ms. Dierdorf was
assigned to the misdemeanor division and was supervised by
2013, Ms. Schuessler became licensed to practice law in
Missouri and began working as an assistant circuit attorney
with OCA. She was assigned to the misdemeanor division and
was supervised by Ms. Barrett.
working at OCA, Ms. Dierdorf and Ms. Schuessler became good
friends with Bliss Worrell and Lauren Collins, who were also
assistant circuit attorneys in the misdemeanor division, and
a summer intern, Jane Doe. The group socialized outside the
office and texted frequently. The following events led to the
disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Dierdorf and Ms.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014, Ms. Dierdorf, Ms. Worrell, and Ms.
Doe went to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. While there,
Ms. Worrell received a telephone call from a detective with
the St. Louis police department, Thomas "Tom"
Carroll. Ms. Worrell and Det. Carroll had a close, personal
relationship. They talked frequently on the telephone,
socialized outside of work, and were training together for a
marathon. Det. Carroll called because his daughter's
vehicle had been broken into and her credit card stolen.
Later that night, a suspect was apprehended with the
daughter's credit card.
morning of July 23, 2014, Ms. Dierdorf was in her office with
Ms. Doe. Ms. Worrell entered the office and stated, "Tom
beat up that guy" who stole his daughter's credit
card. Ms. Worrell left Ms. Dierdorf's office soon
thereafter, but the following group text message later
occurred between the three women:
Ms. Worrell: Hah. I realized we shouldn't be talking
about [T]om beating someone up in front of [another
coworker.]That behavior is not on her "true
public servant" list
Ms. Doe: I think she's too dense to realize what we are
Ms. Worrell: That's probably true
Ms. Dierdorf: Yeah she has no clue
Dierdorf did not report to her supervisors Det. Carroll's
assault of the suspect immediately following Ms.
Worrell's disclosure of it.
that morning, Ms. Dierdorf was in Ms. Schuessler's
office. Ms. Worrell walked into the office talking on her
cell phone with Det. Carroll. She put the cell phone on Ms.
Schuessler's desk and said, "Tom, tell them what you
told me." Ms. Dierdorf then left the office.
speakerphone, Det. Carroll proceeded to describe how he beat
up the suspect who stole his daughter's credit card. He
explained that he punched the suspect in the face and kicked
the suspect while he was in a holding cell. He further stated
he hit the suspect in the back with a chair and stuck a gun
in the suspect's mouth. Ms. Schuessler then made the
comment, "I bet that's not the first big, black
thing he's had in his mouth." Det. Carroll and Ms.
Worrell laughed. After the conversation ended, Ms. Schuessler
did not report Det. Carroll's assault of the suspect to
afternoon, Ms. Worrell went to the warrant office even though
she was not assigned to the warrant office that day. She
issued charges against the suspect Det. Carroll assaulted,
including a felony charge for fleeing custody.
morning of July 24, 2014, Ms. Dierdorf was, again, in her
office with Ms. Doe. Ms. Worrell entered the office and told
them she had issued the case against the suspect Det. Carroll
beat up for stealing his daughter's credit card. The
group also discussed some details of the assault before Ms.
Worrell left the office.
Dierdorf then went to Ms. Schuessler's office. Ms.
Collins was also in Ms. Schuessler's office. Ms. Dierdorf
came in and said, "Bliss really messed up." She
then told Ms. Schuessler and Ms. Collins that Ms. Worrell
went to the warrant office to intercept the warrant
application for the suspect beat up by Det. Carroll. She
further stated the suspect was falsely charged with fleeing
custody to explain why the suspect was injured. In response,
Ms. Schuessler stated, "We could get in trouble just for
knowing this." Ms. Dierdorf responded, "How would
they find out. I'm not going to say anything."
Ms. Dierdorf left the office, Ms. Collins and Ms. Schuessler
checked the OCA database to see if the suspect had been
charged. Their check revealed the suspect had been charged
with a felony for fleeing custody. Ms. Schuessler expressed
concern that an innocent man could go to jail for a crime he
did not commit. Ms. Schuessler was hesitant to report Ms.
Worrell's conduct because Ms. Schuessler and Ms. Dierdorf
were roommates. But when Ms. Collins indicated she was going
to report the incident to their supervisor, Ms. Barrett, Ms.
Schuessler went with her to Ms. Barrett's office. Ms.
Collins informed Ms. Barrett that she believed Ms. Worrell
had filed false charges against a suspect whom Det. Carroll
had assaulted while in custody.
Dierdorf was then called to discuss the matter with her
supervisors - Ms. Barrett, Ed Postawko, chief warrant
officer, and Beth Orwick, chief trial assistant. She
disclosed that she had learned something about Det. Carroll
roughing up a suspect who stole something from his daughter
and that Ms. Worrell had issued charges. She was adamant she
had told no one else what she knew about the assault. She did
not disclose that Ms. Worrell had told her about the assault
directly or that she had learned about the assault prior to
Ms. Worrell issuing charges against the suspect on Wednesday.
Dierdorf then went to a courtroom where Ms. Schuessler was
also present. Ms. Dierdorf said to her, "I told them I
don't know anything. You don't tell them you know
anything either." Ms. Schuessler perceived Ms.
Dierdorf's statement as an instruction not to tell the
Schuessler was then called to interview with Mr. Postawko and
Ms. Orwick. She told them she had overheard a conversation
between Ms. Worrell and Det. Carroll about the assault. She
also said Ms. Dierdorf told her Ms. Worrell had issued false
charges against the suspect to cover up the assault. She did
not disclose that she had heard Det. Carroll describe the
assault on speakerphone or that Det. Carroll used a gun
during the incident.
evening, Ms. Dierdorf drove Ms. Worrell home. During the
drive, Ms. Worrell spoke with Det. Carroll on a cell phone
about how people found out about the assault and the charges.
After Ms. Dierdorf dropped off Ms. Worrell, Ms. Dierdorf and
Ms. Doe exchanged text messages. During the text
conversation, Ms. Doe asked, "If they determine Bliss
knew it was a false police report can any charges be brought