As she faced ouster for nonperformance and a hemorrhaging of prosecutors from her office, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner Thursday suddenly announced her resignation effective June 1.
The stunning turnaround, after months of defiance amid calls for her resignation, comes after a judge Tuesday ruled Gardner must stand trial Sept. 25 on seven of 10 counts in Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s petition seeking her ouster for chronically failing to prosecute crimes. She also faced — and may still face — separate criminal contempt proceedings for her office’s failure to show up for trials.
Her resignation also comes after new revelations she had been moonlighting as a nursing student since 2021, while her prosecutor’s office floundered and serious felonies went unpunished.
“If the circuit attorney wants to be a nurse, she needs to cease pretending to be a prosecuting attorney,” Bailey said at a press conference Wednesday.
Additionally, two more prosecutors responsible for handling some of the most serious crimes in Gardner’s office had just resigned, citing health problems and crushing caseloads. A judge has called Gardner’s office a “rudderless ship of chaos” and accused Gardner of having “complete indifference and a conscious disregard for the judicial process.”
Gardner’s resignation letter sounded both a note of defiance and near paranoia, repeatedly citing unspecified attacks from “outsiders” that “seem designed to stop the office from functioning, at the expense of public safety,” while noting her status as “the first Black, female prosecutor in the state.”
In truth, it was Gardner’s office’s own failures to prosecute crime that led to Bailey’s ouster petition and several judges’ contempt claims against her. Bailey sought Gardner’s removal only after her office allowed a robbery suspect to violate bond dozens of times before he drove a car into a 17-year-old volleyball player in St. Louis for a tournament in February, causing her to lose her legs.
Several media outlets have reported this week that, despite the turmoil in her office and the impact on crime and crime victims in St. Louis, Gardner has been a nursing student at St. Louis University since 2021. Bailey has filed subpoenas seeking records on her classes and clinical work since that time.
Bailey said his office learned about Gardner’s moonlighting several weeks ago. He argued Wednesday that state law requires Gardner and her assistants to “devote their entire time and energy to the discharge of their official duties.”
“Obtaining a nursing degree is not one of her official duties. Prosecuting criminals is,” Bailey told reporters. “Yet, she has consistently failed to charge new cases, inform and confer with victims, and move the cases she does charge to disposition.”
Gardner’s office had issued this statement about her extracurricular activities amid the maelstrom, claiming the nursing classes actually related to her job as a prosecutor:
“Circuit Attorney Gardner believes the issues in our criminal justice system often relate to our broken health care system. After serving as a line attorney at the Circuit Attorney’s Office and seeing firsthand the underlying issues that drive crime, she became a registered nurse. She continues to stay current with classes at St. Louis University to add to her training and advance her mission at the (Circuit Attorney’s Office). The Circuit Attorney has done this at great personal cost to her time with her family and loved ones. Any suggestion that she is not fully committed to her duties as Circuit Attorney is blatantly false.”
Not so, says Bailey:
“The criminal justice system in the City of St. Louis has ceased to function, and people are suffering from her unlawful refusal to do her job.”
Despite the criticism and contempt charges from judges and the alarming bleed of prosecutors from her office, some have tried to blame race for it all, while several media outlets have portrayed Gardner’s self-inflicted problems as little more than a partisan attack by a Republican attorney general.
“Missouri AG takes aim at Kim Gardner’s enrollment as SLU nursing student,” blared a headline at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Missouri AG continues attacks on St. Louis Circuit Attorney,” read a headline at Fox4 in Kansas City.
Meanwhile, Fox News called Gardner “one of the first progressive prosecutors whom (George) Soros, a liberal billionaire and Democrat mega-donor, bankrolled in 2016 and again for her re-election in 2020.”