|Circuit Attorney of St. Louis|
|Assumed office |
January 1, 2017
|Preceded by||Jennifer Joyce|
|Member of the Missouri House of Representatives|
from the 77th district
January 9, 2013 – January 1, 2017
|Preceded by||Eileen Grant McGeoghegan|
|Succeeded by||Steve Roberts|
|Born||1975 (age 45–46)|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Education||Harris–Stowe State University (BS)|
Saint Louis University (JD, MS)
Kimberly M. Gardner (born Aug. 2, 1975) is an American politician and attorney from the state of Missouri. She is the circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis, Missouri. She previously served as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives.
Early life and education
Gardner was born in 1975 and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her family runs a funeral home in North St. Louis, at which she also worked. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration from Harris–Stowe State University in 1999. She then earned a Juris Doctor from the Saint Louis University School of Law in 2003 and a Master of Science in nursing from Saint Louis University in 2012.
Pre-public life and State Rep.
Gardner worked at Bell, Kirksey & Associates and as an assistant prosecutor (St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, 2005–2010) prior to being elected as Circuit Attorney. From 2013 to 2017 she was a Missouri State Representative for District 77.
Gardner took office on January 6, 2017. She is the first African-American to head the Circuit Attorney's Office. Under Gardner's tenure, St. Louis has seen a significant increase in non-prosecuted felonies. In 2019, St. Louis police sought 7,045 felony cases, but only 1,641 were prosecuted by Gardner's office. Many were returned to the police citing insufficient evidence, despite claims of sufficient evidence to prosecute by the police union.
Gardner continued the prosecution of former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department police officer Jason Stockley for first degree murder in the shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a case first filed by her predecessor Jennifer Joyce. The acquittal in the bench trial in a controversial decision by Judge Timothy Wilson led to intense protests in the latter months of 2017.
As Circuit Attorney, Gardner has reduced and removed or reduced amounts of cash bond for minor, nonviolent offenses. She is also expanding diversion and drug court programs, and consulting with the Vera Institute of Justice on these issues. She is ending prosecutions of low-level marijuana possession and is dismissing many cases. The CAO is sharing a federal grant to work with the Midwest Innocence Project on wrongful convictions.
The Circuit Attorney's Office has experienced a more than 100% turnover rate in staff since Gardner took office. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in September 2019 that "over 65 attorneys with a combined experience of over 460 years in prosecutorial experience" have left the Circuit Attorney's office under Gardner.
Grand jury process
Kim Gardner's office charges defendants under direct complaint and then uses the grand jury process to delay the preliminary hearing. This wait on average is 344 days as of March 2021. The Missouri Supreme Court changed the rules on preliminary hearings effective March 1, 2021, to that "courts must hold preliminary hearings within 30 days of felony complaints being filed if a defendant is in jail, and within 60 days if not." Kim Gardner's continued use of the grand jury process has circumvented the Supreme Court's attempt at reform.
Eric Greitens investigation and indictment
Gardner's office secured a grand jury indictment of sitting Missouri Governor Eric Greitens in February 2018, for felony invasion of privacy. On April 20, 2018, Gardner's office announced a new charge of tampering with computer data against Greitens. The governor was swiftly released on his own recognizance. Then Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley had opportunity to prosecute but declined to do so. In May 2018, the judge in the Greitens case ruled that the defense could call Gardner as a witness due to suspected criminal conduct by the prosecution. Following the judge's ruling, Gardner's office announced that they would be dismissing the invasion of privacy charge, citing that Gardner could not testify in a case her office was prosecuting. Following the Governor's announcement that he planned to resign, Gardner announced that all charges against Greitens would be dropped.
On May 15, 2018, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens' attorneys filed a police report with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department alleging perjury by William Don Tisaby, an ex-FBI agent and private investigator that Gardner hired to investigate Greitens. Defense attorneys also cited $100,000 in secret cash payments to witnesses, payments they stated were concealed from the defense team by Gardner, as well as numerous meetings between the Circuit Attorney and William Tisaby, and "a major witness in the case". In a statement regarding the police report, defense attorneys said, "By law, both the Circuit Attorney and William Tisaby were required to testify about what was said and done in those secret meetings. Both refused to do so." Tisaby asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in response to over 50 questions.
Special prosecutor investigation
On June 29, 2018, St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Mullen appointed St. Louis attorney Gerard Carmody as special prosecutor to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct in the case against Governor Eric Greitens. Gardner appealed the appointment of a special prosecutor to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled that Gardner had a conflict of interest in the case and upheld Mullen's appointment of Carmody. The Missouri Supreme Court also rejected an appeal from Gardner's office seeking to block a search warrant signed by Mullen for the files of Gardner's office; the court ordered Gardner to turn over servers requested by Carmody.
On June 17, 2019, a 30-page grand jury indictment was unsealed against William Don Tisaby, the private investigator hired by Gardner to investigate Greitens, charging him with six counts of felony perjury and one count of felony tampering with evidence. The indictment alleges that Tisaby lied under oath about "matters that could substantially affect, or did substantially affect, the course or outcome of the Greitens case" (specifically, about his contacts with a major witness in the case and the nature of those conversations) and had concealed documents from defense attorneys. Tisby pleaded not guilty. In June 2019, Tisaby's attorney told reporters that "Ms. Gardner is probably the actual target here, not Mr. Tisaby." Although Gardner was not indicted, the indictment against Tisaby stated that Gardner "failed to correct Tisaby’s lies, failed to report them to police, and made incorrect statements to defense lawyers and the judge."
On July 10, 2019, the grand jury disbanded without charging Gardner. The next day, Gardner held a press conference denying any wrongdoing in Greitens's case (her first public statement on the matter since the appointment of the special prosecutor, as a gag order had been placed on the case for the duration of the grand jury) and saying it was time for the city to "move on".
Following the press conference, special prosecutor Carmody took the unusual step of putting out a statement clarifying that the grand jury disbanded because its term expired, not because the investigation was complete. Carmody announced that despite the original grand jury's conclusion, his investigation would continue, pointing out his authority to seat a new grand jury to review any evidence relating to Gardner's conduct.
Tisaby's motion to dismiss the indictment against him was denied by St. Louis Circuit Judge Bryan Hettenbach, who also placed a protective order on approximately 4,000 documents at Carmody's request to protect the privacy of some parties involved in the Greitens case and the integrity of "an active criminal investigation" focused on the failed prosecution of Greitens.
On July 2, 2021, Judge Bryan Hettenbach approved Carmody's withdrawal from the case and appointed Johnson County prosecutor Robert Russell to the case. The court ordered the city of St. Louis to pay Russell's expenses. Judge Bryan Hettenbach also denied Tisaby's attorneys' motion to dismiss the case and the sanctioning of Carmody for allegedly not providing transcripts.
It was published on May 4, 2021 that the Missouri's State Disciplinary Counsel found probable cause that during the Greitens prosecution. Gardner will face a disciplinary panel and any possible punishment will be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court which could range from admonishment to the suspension or revocation of her law license. An expert on prosecutorial misconduct, Professor Bennett Gershman, described the case as "startling" and an unusual invocation of Brady v. Maryland, on which the record focuses.
In summer 2018, the existence of an "exclusion list" (similar to a "Brady list" in other jurisdictions) of 28 SLMPD officers whose conduct is considered so tainted by misconduct that the CAO would no longer accept testimony or evidence in court cases and would reconsider past cases. Fifty-five prosecutors and law enforcement officials from across the United States signed a statement supporting Gardner's Brady List. Gardner, in February 2019, announced that the CAO and police department are working together on problems stemming from the list. In January 2019, Gardner's office accused officers within SLMPD of obstructing their investigation in the shooting death of officer Katlyn Alix by officer Nathaniel R. Hendren, one of two officers charged with crimes relating to the incident, which resulted in a sharp rebuke by Chief John Hayden.
Traffic stop controversy
On December 23, 2019 (the day before Christmas Eve), Kim Gardner was pulled over by St. Louis downtown police on Market Street for a traffic stop. In January 2020, Gardner made numerous news interviews and public claims stating that: the stop was on December 24, 2019 (Christmas Eve), police had held her for 15 minutes without stating why, and that these were "intimidation tactics used by the police to stop reform". Police records state that the stop occurred on December 23, 2019 instead. KMOV4 news also published video evidence from a camera across the street revealing that St. Louis downtown police had pulled Gardner over when her car was shown driving without headlights on at night, and that the stop lasted for only 6 minutes. Gardner continued to claim that the stop lasted 15 minutes and was without reason. The Circuit Attorney's Office also sent an email statement that "According to the police it was a 15 minute stop. In addition, the officer's statement is different than the one shared by Jeff Roorda." The St. Louis Police Sergeant then issued a follow-up statement that the police had never stated Gardner was detained for 15 minutes. The St. Louis Police statement also reveals that an investigator from the Circuit Attorney's Office had attempted to involve himself into the traffic investigation, which is an illegal act and the investigator could have been arrested for it. The St. Louis Police did not arrest the investigator. The Circuit Attorney's Office continued to assert Gardner's false allegations.
Campaign finance violations
In 2019, Gardner admitted to repeat campaign finance violations dating back to her time as a Missouri state legislator. These violations included using campaign donations to pay for a private apartment. Gardner reached an agreement with the Missouri Ethics Commission to pay a settlement of $6,314 in lieu of a $63,009 fine.
Civil rights lawsuit
In January 2020, Gardner filed a civil rights lawsuit against St. Louis City and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department on the basis of the Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Ku Klux Klan Act of 1865, alleging a racist conspiracy. The lawsuit cites a 2016 report from the Ethical Society of Police detailing a history of racial discrimination in the police force, as well as the Plain View Project's report exposing city police officers' racist social media activities.
The city and the St. Louis Police Officers Association, led by Jeff Roorda, denied the lawsuit's allegations. Several African American women district attorneys, including Marilyn Mosby and Aramis Ayala, traveled to St. Louis to demonstrate support for Gardner, declaring that she has been targeted by a "fundamentally racist" system which they also contend against.
On 30 September 2020, U.S. District Judge John Andrew Ross dismissed Gardner’s lawsuit. The judge wrote that: wrote: “Her 32-page complaint can best be described as a conglomeration of unrelated claims and conclusory statements supported by very few facts, which do not plead any recognizable cause of action” and continued that "Gardner presents no specific material facts, circumstantial or otherwise, to show that defendants acted with each other for the purpose of depriving her – or anyone else – of a constitutional right to equal protection. Her complaint is nothing more than a compilation of personal slights – none of which rise to a legal cause of action." Judge Ross is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in December 2010. Prior to becoming a federal judge, Ross was a circuit court judge for the 21st Circuit Court in Missouri. The costs to defend her out of taxpayer funds has been widely discussed. Invoices and receipts obtained by the Post-Dispatch show the city in June approved and paid the Brown & James firm about $153,600 in legal bills to defend the Circuit Attorney’s Office against two lawsuits. The city paid about 80% of those bills three weeks after Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty blocked payments to at least five other private firms.
Open records lawsuit
In January 2020, Fox News contributor and political commentator John Solomon sued Gardner and several others—including former State Representatives Jay Barnes and Stacey Newman, billionaire political donor George Soros, and individuals connected to the state's low income housing tax credit industry—in the St. Louis Circuit Court, alleging violations of Missouri's open records laws. Solomon claimed that Gardner's office violated the state's "Sunshine Law" by refusing to make available records involving investigations into former Republican Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.
In June 2020, 36 people were arrested in St. Louis during two nights of the George Floyd protests for alleged trespassing, burglary, property damage, assault, and theft. All were released, two after being issued summons, eight after prosecutors declined to immediately file a charge, and the rest "while police apply for charges." Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, criticized Gardner on Twitter over the arrestees' release. Gardner said she would bring "the full power of the law" against those responsible for violent acts, but, responding to Schmitt, said that the prosecutor's office cannot bring charges against individuals without admissible evidence from police. Gardner criticized Schmitt for launching "a politically motivated attack against me, even if it means misleading and lying to the public."
In December 2020, a judge disqualified Gardner from prosecuting the case against Mark McCloskey, writing that "the Circuit Attorney’s conduct raises the appearance that she initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes".
Dropped charges controversy
In July 16, 2021 charges in a murder case due to the prosecutor not showing up to multiple hearings in the case. The Judge in the case saying that Gardner's office "essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes.” Kim Gardner declared in a press briefing charges were refiled and the man was in custody, although was not. The family of the man who was killed claimed they were not contacted when the defendant was released, which violates state laws. On July 20 Gardner's office finally contacted the family about the case and apologized to the family. The prosecutor assigned to the case was on maternity leave, whose signature was forged on at least 20 cases, quit after learning of what happened. Gardner blamed the mistake on the office's internal policy and procedures on Family Medical Leave. The dismals rate of cases since Gardner has taken office has doubled and is double of surrounding counties.
In another case, one of Gardner's prosecutors entered in a plea deal with the defendant without telling the family of the victim, which violates state law. The mother learned of this update when she called Gardner's office to know when she should fly up to see the case. The mother claims the first prosecutor was not going to accept the deal and was going to prosecute the case. The mother wrote letters to the judge in the case not to accept the plea deal and claims Gardner and two of her associates called her to bully her into accepting the deal.
Gardner ran against three Democratic opponents to secure her post as Circuit Attorney in the 2016 elections, following the retirement of Jennifer Joyce. She ran on reforming and rebuilding trust in the criminal justice system and reducing violent crime. She also promised to increase diversity, bring independent investigations of police use of force, work to reduce racial disparities, and enhance gun control. Gardner's campaign accepted $190,750.73 from 'Super PACs' (Political Action Committees) funded in part by billionaire George Soros.
On August 4, Gardner won a contested primary for reelection, receiving 60.9% of the vote against her leading 2016 primary opponent, Mary Pat Carl. Gardner won the November general election with 74.01% of the vote, defeating Republican Daniel Zdrodowski.
- "Editorial: Reform-minded prosecutors give St. Louis-area voters what they asked for". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 4, 2019.
- Patrick, Robert (January 30, 2019). "St. Louis prosecutor declining more cases and issuing fewer arrest warrants as part of reform efforts". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Jaco, Charles (January 10, 2019). "Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner". The Jaco Report.
- Wicentowski, Danny (March 1, 2017). "Kim Gardner Is St. Louis' First Black Circuit Attorney. That Matters — And She's Just Getting Started". Riverfront Times.
- "Kimberly Gardner". Vote Smart. 2019 . Retrieved 2019-02-10.
- "100 days in, St. Louis circuit attorney focuses on strengthening police, community ties". 11 April 2017.
- Byers, Christine. "I really thought he was going to kill me – Attempted carjacking of Lyft driver is among thousands of unprosecuted cases". KSDK. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
- Trager, Lauren. "Police union stunned no charges filed in CWE shooting caught on tape". KMOV. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
- Lippmann, Rachel (January 30, 2019). "Gardner Pledges More Court Diversion, Less Cash Bail". St. Louis Public Radio.
- "St. Louis shows promise for bail reform". St. Louis American. December 13, 2018.
- Rice, Rachel (June 13, 2018). "St. Louis circuit attorney's office will dismiss some smaller marijuana possession cases". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Lippmann, Rachel (December 15, 2018). "Federal dollars will help St. Louis prosecutor look for wrongful convictions". St. Louis Public Radio.
- Currier, Joel. "470 years of experience gone: Kimberly M. Gardner has lost more lawyers than she had when she took office". STLtoday.com. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
- "Long Waits For Preliminary Hearings In St. Louis Draw Public Defender's Ire". St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
- "'A Troubling Reality': Problems At Circuit Attorney's Office Stall Reform Agenda". St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
- "Missouri Governor Eric Greitens charged over nude photo". BBC News. February 23, 2018.
- "Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Charged With Second Felony: Computer Data Tampering". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Lippmann, Rachel (11 July 2019). "Gardner Defends Conduct In Case Against Greitens". news.stlpublicradio.org. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- "1 Charge Against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Dropped As He Resigns From Office". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Bowman, Marie (2018-05-15). "Greitens' attorney files police report against Circuit Attorney's Office's investigator for perjury". KMIZ. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Lippmann, Rachel (29 June 2018). "Special prosecutor appointed in William Tisaby investigation". St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- KMOV.com staff. "Missouri Supreme Court denies Gardner's request to halt search warrant". KMOV. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Hollingsworth, Heather (2019-06-17). "Former Greitens' investigator indicted on 7 felonies". Associated Press. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Patrick, Joel Currier, Robert (June 18, 2019). "Former FBI agent who investigated Greitens indicted in St. Louis as part of perjury investigation". stltoday.com.
- Hollingsworth, Heather (2019-06-17). "Former Greitens' investigator indicted on 7 felonies". Associated Press. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
- "Attorney: 'Gardner is probably the actual target here, not Mr. Tisaby'". KTVI. 2019-06-18. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Currier, Joel. "Grand jury disbands without charging St. Louis Circuit Attorney". stltoday.com. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- "After grand jury term ends, Gardner says it's time for the city to move on". KTVI. 2019-07-11. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- "The Latest: Probe involving St. Louis prosecutor ongoing". Associated Press. 2019-07-11. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
- "Criminal investigation into failed prosecution of former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens remains 'active'". KSDK. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
- Rivas, Rebecca; July 2, Missouri Independent; 2021. "Judge appoints new prosecutor in perjury case against Eric Greitens investigator • Missouri Independent". Missouri Independent. Retrieved 2021-07-04.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- Trager, Lauren. "Kim Gardner faces professional misconduct probe, could lose law license". KMOV.com. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
- Hartmann, Ray (2021-05-12). "An Ugly Mission Continues Against Kim Gardner". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
- Salter, Jim (August 30, 2018). "St. Louis prosecutor lists 28 officers on 'exclusion list'". Associated Press (AP).
- Walker, Taylor (January 10, 2019). "55 Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Officials Sign Statement Supporting St. Louis' Prosecutor's "Brady List"". WitnessLA.
- Patrick, Robert (February 9, 2019). "St. Louis prosecutor announces changes in investigations of police shootings and 'exclusion list' officers". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Stack, Liam (January 30, 2019). "St. Louis Prosecutor Accuses Police of Obstructing Inquiry Into Killing of Officer". The New York Times.
- "Kim Gardner doubles down on claim about 15 minute traffic stop despite surveillance video proving otherwise". KMOV.com. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
- Suntrup, Jack (January 3, 2019). "Gardner hit with fine by Missouri ethics officials, says GOP operative caused imbroglio". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Toropin, Konstantin. "St. Louis' chief prosecutor has sued the city, alleging a racist conspiracy meant to force her from office". CNN. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
- Wicentowski, Danny. "St. Louis Police Unions on Opposite Sides of Kim Gardner Lawsuit". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
- Oppel Jr, Richard A. (2020-01-13). "Prosecutor Sues Her Own City Under a Law Passed to Fight the K.K.K." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
- Staff, KMOV com. "Gardner's lawsuit alleging racist conspiracy to force her from office dismissed". KMOV.com. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
- "Federal Judge Dismisses St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Lawsuit Alleging 'Racist Conspiracy'". St. Louis Public Radio. 2020-09-30. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
- Currier, Joel. "Taxpayers spend more than $150,000 to defend suit challenging Kim Gardner's legal contracts". STLtoday.com. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
- Currier, Joel. "Fox News contributor sues St. Louis prosecutor alleging Sunshine Law violations". STLtoday.com. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
- Patrick, Robert (June 3, 2020). "Those arrested over two nights of protests and unrest in St. Louis released from jail, police say". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
- Christine Byers (June 3, 2020). "Looters, rioters not being prosecuted by circuit attorney, says attorney general; Kim Gardner responds". KSDK.
- Byers, Christine (December 10, 2020). "Judge dismisses St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner from Mark McCloskey case". The St. Louis American. Archived from the original on December 26, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
- Romo, Vanessa (December 11, 2020). "St. Louis Prosecutor Taken Off Case Of Couple Who Brandished Guns At BLM Protesters". National Public Radio. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
- "'Kim Gardner is a poor excuse for a prosecutor': Family of murder victim outraged after charges dropped, suspect freed". ksdk.com. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
- "Byers' Beat: How can St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner be held accountable?". ksdk.com. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
- "St. Louis' lead homicide prosecutor quits after signature entered on cases while she was on maternity leave". ksdk.com. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
- Currier, Joel (July 19, 2016). "St. Louis circuit attorney candidates seek to fight violent crime, restore public trust". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Jones, Mike (July 21, 2016). "Kimberly Gardner on why she is running for circuit attorney". St. Louis American.
- Lippmann, Rachel (July 15, 2016). "Six things to know about the candidates running to replace Circuit Attorney Joyce". St. Louis Public Radio.
- Currier, Joel. "St. Louis circuit attorney candidate defends accepting super PAC campaign money from liberal billionaire George Soros". STLtoday.com. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
- Kim Gardner wins in rematch for St. Louis Circuit Attorney, Kansas City Star, Kelsey Landis, August 4, 2020. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
- "Election Summary ReportGeneral ElectionSt. Louis, MissouriNovember 3, 2020" (PDF). City of St. Louis, MO: Official Website. Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis. Retrieved 14 December 2020.