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Osage County sheriff pleads guilty

Osage County sheriff pleads guilty

July 2nd, 2014 in News

CLAYTON, Mo. - Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon will be on supervised probation for the next two years, after pleading guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor harassment charge.

Dixon doesn't have to quit his job, Special Prosecutor John Beger, Rolla, told reporters after Dixon entered the guilty plea during a 10-minute hearing in the St. Louis County Courthouse.

"That would have to be in the hands of the Police Officers Standards and Training Commission," Beger explained. "I don't have any involvement in that..

"I don't expect they'll ask me" for a recommendation.

The commission, generally known as the POST Commission, is part of the state Public Safety department, and certifies that law officers are qualified to enforce the law.

Spokesman Mike O'Connell said state laws and regulations prevent him from comment on the specifics of any case, including Dixon's, but the commission generally follows situations like Dixon's based on news reports or complaints the commission receives.

"If charges are filed, the commission waits until the legal process is finished, before starting its own investigation," O'Connell said Tuesday afternoon. "After they get a court file, then commissioners will launch their own investigation."

If the commission decides to pursue a case to take away an officer's certification, they have the attorney general's office present the case to the state's Administrative Hearing Commission.

Nanci Gonder, Attorney General Chris Koster's spokeswoman, referred questions to O'Connell.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Richard C. Bresnahan, assigned as a special judge in the case, accepted Dixon's plea during the Tuesday morning hearing.

Bresnahan suspended imposing any sentence before placing Dixon on probation.

Conditions of that probation include:

submitting to drug and alcohol testing at any time; having no contact with either of the victims in the case, whether directly or through a third party; never to mention either victim's name publicly, privately or online; never to deny or retract his guilty plea in any public, private or online conversation; taking sexual harassment counseling; and paying $430 to the Phelps County prosecutor's office for Beger's mileage.

The special prosecutor said Bresnahan gave Dixon "a process whereby he can correct that conduct, and he has the opportunity - I'm not saying that he will - depending on what the POST Commission does, to retain his commission and serve out his term as sheriff."

Beger had charged Dixon, 28, 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 first-degree sexual misconduct or - in the alternative - third-degree assault, harassment and stalking.

As part of the plea agreement with Dixon, Beger dropped the felony and three of the misdemeanor charges at the beginning of Monday's hearing.

"I'm satisfied with the outcome and the victims are satisfied," Beger said. "In pleading guilty, he entered a plea to the conduct that was alleged in the other charges."

Dixon told Judge Bresnahan he was pleading guilty, and confirmed it was his signature on a document outlining the agreement.

The harassment charge said Dixon "made repeated telephone calls" to a woman he knew and, at one time, had worked with.

Beger said: "Even though the felony was a one-time incident, the fact that he had carried out this course of conduct over a period of eight months was more important to me, and more important to the female victim and the male victim - to get an acknowledgment of that conduct."

He added: "In this day and age, women go into combat. They serve as police officers. And they shouldn't have to put up with this in the workplace."

Beger said he and Dixon's defense attorney, Travis Noble Jr. of St. Louis, began talking about a possible deal last week, while they were at the courthouse for a pre-trial hearing.

"And we had some additional discussions by phone on Friday, and came to an agreement with the knowledge and consent of the victims," Beger said.

Tuesday's hearing was scheduled with the court on Monday.

Beger said his case was made easier by the Highway Patrol's "extensive investigation."

"It wasn't, particularly, any harder than any other case we deal with on a regular basis in the prosecution area," Beger said. "Obviously, it was different from the standpoint that it was a police officer and elected sheriff.

"I think the special message, if there is any, is that you're not above the law."

Dixon didn't comment on the charges in the courtroom or after the hearing.

If he fails to obey all the conditions of his probation, Beger said, Dixon still could lead to a sentence.

"The range of punishment in this case is up to a year in the county jail and/or a $1,000 fine," Beger said.

"It is a significant punishment hanging over him."