ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The Missouri Supreme Court this week reprimanded St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner for ethical violations stemming from her attempted prosecution of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, exacerbating her office’s reputation for falling short of upholding the law.
Gardner appeared before a three-person disciplinary panel in April and admitted to mistakes in a “joint stipulation” regarding her handling of the former governor’s case in 2018. She was reprimanded and fined $750, although the court could have punished Gardner further with a suspension, probation or disbarment.
In the agreement, Gardner admitted to lying about producing all appropriate documents to Greitens’ attorney, when in fact she withheld evidence from the opposing attorneys. She claimed the mistakes were made due to the fast-moving nature of the case.
The agreement stated that Gardner’s conduct “was negligent or perhaps reckless, but not intentional,” which led to the smaller reprimand and $750 fine, rather than a suspension or disbarment.
The settlement says Gardner “should have been more vigilant in ensuring the prosecution’s discovery obligations were properly addressed in the expedited and highly public proceedings relating to the prosecution of Mr. Greitens.”
“I’m pleased that our state’s highest court and disciplinary counsel has recognized that the ethics disciplinary process should not be weaponized for political gain,” Gardner said in a statement.
Ironically, weaponizing the justice system for political gain is exactly what many believe Gardner had done.
After being charged with computer data tampering for allegedly disclosing a donor list of his veterans charity for political fundraising purposes, Greitens resigned in June of 2018. This led to Gardner dropping the charge – raising questions of whether her prosecution of the former governor was merely to get him out of office.
The circuit attorney’s reprimand isn’t the first time Gardner’s actions have been publicly questioned. While claiming her soft-on-crime approach has made St. Louis safer and the criminal justice system more equitable, the facts say otherwise.
Gardner was first elected as circuit attorney in 2016, and re-elected in 2020. Since then, crime has continued to plague St. Louis and petrify residents.
In fact, in February MoneyGeek ranked 297 cities with populations over 100,000 and found St. Louis to be the No. 1 most dangerous place to live in the United States.
NeighborhoodScout.com, an online database of U.S. neighborhood analytics, found several statistics regarding unchecked crime in St. Louis, and detailed why the city is considered by many to be the most dangerous place in the country.
“With a crime rate of 78 per 1,000 residents, St. Louis has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes,” the website said. “For St. Louis, we found that the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation.”
NeighborhoodScout tabulated violent offenses as rape, murder, non-negligent manslaughter, armed robbery and aggravated assault, including assault with a deadly weapon.
“According to NeighborhoodScout’s analysis of FBI reported crime data, your chance of becoming a victim of one of these crimes in St. Louis is one in 50. … In St. Louis, your chance of becoming a victim of a property crime is one in 17, which is a rate of 58 per 1,000.”
“Your chance of getting your car stolen if you live in St. Louis is one in 94,” the study continued.
Not only does the crime rate continue to spiral out of control, Gardner doesn’t seem to have a remedy or to even be concerned about the city’s lawlessness. Last summer, prosecutors from Gardner’s office repeatedly failed to show up in court or weren’t prepared after months of delays – which led to murder charges in three different cases to be dropped.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reported on Circuit Court data showing that roughly one-third of felony cases during Gardner’s tenure have been dismissed – tripling the felony case dismissal rate of her predecessor.
Unfortunately for St. Louis residents, that isn’t all that has occurred in Gardner’s saga with allowing crime to run rampant throughout the city.
In 2018, the circuit attorney placed dozens of officers on an “exclusion list” barring them from bringing any cases forward to her office. She did so after a Philadelphia-based group accused officers of racist comments on social media.
“Accused” being the key word, as nothing was ever proven, and Gardner refused to apply the justice system’s long standing mantra of “innocent until proven guilty” to the officers. Many argue this was hardly the act of solidarity needed between law enforcement and the justice system to decrease crime in one of the nation’s most dangerous cities.
Two years later, in 2020, Gardner accused the city, a police union and others of coordinating a “racist conspiracy” intended to force her out of office. She filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. Some argue the city’s top prosecutor filed the suit as revenge against her critics, as the lawsuit’s allegations were found to be so flimsy the case was summarily dismissed.
While Gardner continues to take backlash and criticism for what critics say is an uninspired and irresolute approach to prosecution, it’s unclear if she will continue her soft-on-crime approach and allow criminals to walk.