Officials In Missouri Make Public Full Report On Prosecutor Who Quite
In 2020, St. Louis City was ablaze with out-of-control destruction and violence following the death of George Floyd. Amid the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, four police officers were shot, and a retired police captain, David Dorn, was killed. The city was in tumult, and it was within this backdrop that Mark and Patricia McCloskey chose to stand outside their home and protect it from BLM protesters. The McCloskeys were charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who was under pressure to hold someone accountable for the violence and destruction.
But Gardner's response to the McCloskeys' case was just a part of the larger problems facing her office. Gardner, first elected in 2016 and re-elected by an overwhelming majority in 2020, was already facing pressure to resign for her mishandling of cases and failure to prosecute violent criminals. As investigations continued, it became clear that Gardner was not at the office – or in court – because she was busy working on her registered nursing degree at a local college.
The catalyst for Missouri's Attorney General (AG) to file a lawsuit for Gardner's removal came with a car crash in which a young volleyball player lost both her legs. The driver responsible for the crash was a 17-year-old, on house arrest for an armed robbery committed just months before. However, Gardner's office was never quite ready to go to court to prosecute him, even after repeated violations of his house arrest.
At the same time, the MO legislature was moving forward with a bill to "strip her office of power," and calls for Gardner's resignation grew louder. Gardner eventually stepped down, but just hours before a judge was to order potentially damaging records be turned over and a deposition be scheduled.
The AG's report, released this week, shows just how disastrous Gardner's time as Circuit Attorney was. Gardner dismissed 25,000 cases, with judges dismissing another 2,735 cases for failure to prosecute. Meanwhile, Gardner used taxpayer money to fund her nursing degree, and the report details numerous violations of the Crime Victims' Rights Act.
But the damage caused by Gardner's mismanagement goes beyond the hundreds of cases that were either dropped or dismissed. The judges the AG interviewed expressed "dismay, disappointment, and despair" over Gardner's office's inability to resolve cases and notify victims of impending dispositions and trials. The report also shows that Gardner was at war with the local police department and even went as far as blacklisting police officers for "credibility issues."
But there is hope for St. Louis City after the chaos and destruction of Gardner's tenure as Circuit Attorney. Her successor, Gabe Gore, has already filed twice as many cases within three months as Gardner did in the same period last year, with a staggering 1,400 cases filed. As Gore works to clean up the backlog and mend fences with the police department, there is finally a sense of hope for the residents of St. Louis City.
However, there are still questions surrounding Gardner's resignation, and many are asking if there is any way she can be held accountable for the disaster that was the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney's office. Gore will also have to face a re-election campaign to continue his work as prosecutor, but the residents of St. Louis City can finally look forward to a more functional and just justice system.