St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, already facing possible ouster for dereliction of duty, was threatened with contempt of court Monday after one of her assistant prosecutors failed to show for a murder trial.
Gardner’s office was nowhere to be found Monday for the trial of Jonathon Jones, 18, in the 2021 shooting death of a man near the Gateway Arch, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, adding the assistant prosecutor in question was on sick leave.
The judge ordered Gardner’s office to show cause why she shouldn’t be held in criminal contempt and face a fine or jail time.
“This conduct thwarts and defeats the authority of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis,” the judge wrote, according to the newspaper.
Gardner’s already understaffed office has seen key prosecutors handling the most serious felonies leave the office, the Post-Dispatch writes, “including one who wrote of a ‘toxic work environment’ in her resignation letter.” The office is said to be left with just four prosecutors to juggle hundreds of violent offenses with the Jones prosecutor on leave.
Jones has been awaiting trial since being charged last September, along with another man, in the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Brandon Scott, found dead in a vehicle near the stairs to the Arch. Jones’ attorney has demanded a speedy trial, the deadline for which is April 26.
Gardner is required to make her case against contempt next Monday.
Gardner has faced searing criticism for repeatedly failing to prosecute serious crimes. Earlier this month alone, a judge sanctioned her office for withholding evidence in a double murder case involving defendant Alex Heflin, 23.
“The court finds that there have been repeated delays by the state in obtaining discovery and providing it to the defense,” the judge wrote. “There has been a lack of diligence on the part of the state in following up and providing discovery to the defendant in a timely fashion. As a result of the state’s actions and lack of diligence, the court grants defendant’s second motion for sanctions.”
Most infamously, her office failed to take an alleged robber to trial, then allowed him to violate 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. Not long after, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey demanded Gardner’s resignation — and when she defiantly refused, he filed a petition to have a judge remove her from office. That ouster petition is pending.