Pre-Trial Hearing Wraps Up for Former Columbia Police Officer

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CALLAWAY COUNTY - An assistant state attorney appeared in a Callaway County courtroom this morning for a pre-trial hearing to discuss whether the prosecution has presented all of its evidence in the case of former Columbia Police Officer Robert Sanders. Niether Sanders nor his attorneys appeared, but they told KOMU 8 News Thursday they didn't believe the court had all the evidence needed to go to trial.

Sanders was charged with third degree assault and lost his job after he was accused of using excessive force on inmate Kenneth Baker in September of 2011.

Sanders' attorney, Scott Jansen, requested Friday's hearing. He said Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson has not revealed all of the evidence, so the issue needed to be addressed in court. Jansen said this is just procedure and he does not know if any more hearings will be scheduled.

The trial is currently scheduled to begin August 15.

In September, 2011, the Columbia Police Department released a surveillance tape of what appears to be Sanders shoving Baker in a Boone County holding cell. Baker suffered from a fractured vertebra and received a settlement of $250,000 from the city of Columbia.

Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton fired Sanders in 2011 for allegedly using excessive force on Baker, after an investigation. Sanders was a police officer for 18 years.

KOMU 8 News reported the dismissal of Sanders that sparked a controversy in the Columbia community. A petition for the resignation of Police Chief Burton collected over 250 signatures, but was ineffective when given to the city council.

In 2012, the department cleared Sanders of the charges, but the state decided to continue its case against him. The trial was delayed in March when Richardson said he needed more time. Richardson replaced original prosecutor Mike Fusselman. Around that time, the Executive Board for the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police unanimously voted to condemn Burton for wrongful termination of Sanders.

During Sanders' time at the Columbia Police Department, a K-9 unit named Fano assisted him. Sanders asked to keep Fano after he was let go, but the city of Columbia denied his request. KOMU 8 reported in February that the city then sold the german shepherd to the Clarence Police Department for one dollar. It sold the dog to Ashland police officer Terry Toalson and Toalson, a long time friend of Sanders, gave Fano back to Sanders.

Sanders told KOMU 8 News in February that he now trains dogs for a living and uses Fano as a demonstration dog for his business.

As for the incident caught on the surveillance tape, Sanders has maintained he was helping the inmate and wasn't trying to hurt him. He faced a separate accusation for excessive force in 2011, but was not officially charged.

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