St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has unashamedly said that in 2018 she declined to prosecute 64% of the cases brought to her office for prosecution.
Now, that odd recalcitrance of a prosecutor to prosecute may cost the defiant Gardner her job.
“That establishes willful neglect in office,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey says of Gardner’s apparent boast of refusing nearly two-thirds of prosecutions in 2018. “She’s bragging about not doing her job.”
In an interview with The Heartlander, Bailey explained his “quo warranto” petition filed Thursday asking a judge to remove Gardner from office – and why all judges of the St. Louis circuit recused themselves from the case. Missouri Court of Appeals Judge John P. Torbitzky has been assigned to decide the case.
“I think they realized that they’re likely to be witnesses,” Bailey said of the circuit judges. “At this point, Circuit Attorney Gardner has accused them of her failures, and so they’re going to be witnesses in my case. The Supreme Court assigned a special judge to hear the matter.”
Bailey demanded Gardner’s resignation by noon Thursday after her office did little when suspected armed robber Daniel Riley violated bail dozens of times, before he allegedly drove a car into a teen girl volleyball player Feb. 18, causing her to lose both her legs. Gardner adamantly refused to resign in a press conference later that day that painted her as a victim of a racist witch hunt.
“Well, it’s ridiculous,” Bailey said of the racial claim. “I’m an attorney who’s filed suit under my statutory authority, and I’m talking about the procedure of that case and the evidence. She’s injecting race and politics into a legal proceeding.
“She wants to nullify laws she disagrees with. Well, if she wants to do that she needs to go to the General Assembly to repeal statutes, or run for governor so she can veto statutes. But nothing empowers the prosecutor to do that. The prosecutor is responsible for enforcing the law as written, and she’s willfully neglected to do so.
“She would rather play the victim and blame everybody else than own up to the fact that she has willfully neglected her constitutional, statutory and moral obligation to inform victims and confer with victims of crime. It’s easier for her to make excuses. But she’s running out of excuses, and her excuses are rebutted by the evidence in the form of the docket entries, the court file and the transcripts.”
Gardner has maintained she fought to make it harder for Riley to be out on bond. But Bailey says transcripts prove that in an Aug. 10, 2022 hearing Gardner’s office actually agreed to his release.
“She didn’t oppose it. She agreed with the conditions of bond. And that’s just one example in many where she’s saying the judges didn’t do what she asked, and yet that the record demonstrates she never made the ask. In fact, she did the opposite,” Bailey said.
Gardner argues that it’s judges who set the conditions of bail. Yes, but is she right in implying that a prosecutor has little power over it?
“I think she’s incorrect,” Bailey said. “Look, she gets to make arguments on what bonds should be and whether or not bonds should be revoked. The judge is the ultimate decision-maker, but she has an obligation to advocate for whatever she believes the right answer is. And she keeps telling us that she did so advocate, and yet the record is absent of any such argument.
“If she had gotten up and made an oral motion to revoke bond, that would appear in a) the transcripts, b) the docket entries on Case.net, and c) there would be a written memo to the judge. There is no evidence to support her claims, and in fact the evidence runs contradictory to what she’s saying.”
Since Gardner is attempting to shift blame onto the judges, Bailey said the St. Louis judges are, as they expected, likely to have to testify in her ouster proceedings – “and they’ll support our case of systemic, willful negligence of her duties.”
Bailey’s petition notes that appeals of felony convictions from Gardner’s circuit have fallen by two-thirds on her watch.
“If you’re not charging cases and you’re not getting convictions, then there’s nothing to appeal,” Bailey explains. “That’s just one data point that demonstrates that she’s not doing anything. At this point she’s crossed the threshold into illegal, willful neglect.”
Another data point: Bailey’s petition says the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department cites some 4,000 cases it has sent to Gardner for charging that she has yet to even review. The petition adds that Gardner’s office itself admits it has at least 3,000 cases waiting to be looked at for possible charges.
“That should never happen. And here’s the thing – I mean, she’s been offered resources, and she knows there are resources available at the state level, and she’s declined those resources. So, there’s really no excuse at this point. Her refusal to accept help eliminates the excuse that she’s overworked, overburdened, under-resourced.
“I’ll tell you this, the attorney general’s office has 22 prosecutors on staff, more than 100 years of combined prosecutorial experience – resources at the state level ready to deploy today in the fight against violent crime.”
In this press conference Thursday announcing his ouster petition against Gardner, Bailey argued this is “a critical issue, a critical moment in the state’s history and the history of the people of the city of St. Louis.” The Heartlander asked what he meant.
“Well, at the end of the day, there are people being injured and dying. The victim in the most recent tragedy perpetrated by Mr. Riley – that victim will serve a life sentence. She will never get her legs back. This is a tragedy, and it’s not an isolated incident. This isn’t about one case. This is about numerous victims who suffer because she refuses to do her job.
“Rather than protecting victims, she’s creating more victims. And so, we’ve got to put a stop to it, and it’s time for Circuit Attorney Gardner to go ,and the rule of law and justice to prevail again.”