|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|
|Education||Harris–Stowe State University (BS)|
St. Louis University (JD, MS)
|Known for||Low prosecution and conviction rates|
low level offender reforms
prosecution of Eric Greitens
Early life and education
Gardner was born in 1975 and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her north St. Louis family runs a funeral home, at which she also worked. She earned a B.S. in healthcare administration from Harris–Stowe State University in 1999. She earned a J.D. from St. Louis University School of Law in 2003 and a M.S. in nursing from St. Louis University in 2012.
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 ran against three Democratic opponents to secure her post as Circuit Attorney (CA) 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.
Gardner took office on January 6, 2017. She is the first African-American to head the Circuit Attorney's Office (CAO). 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 (SLMPD) 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.
In the summer of the 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.
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.
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.
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 and indictment of a private investigator hired by Gardner's office
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 the 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 "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.
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 Garner's false allegations.
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.
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. Garner criticized Schmitt for launching "a politically motivated attack against me, even if it means misleading and lying to the public."
On July 20, 2020, Kim Gardner filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey for unlawful use a weapon, which is a class E felony, and can carry a sentence of up to four years in prison and a fine of $10,000. This decision drew national attention.    Refer to the relevant Wikipedia Article: St. Louis McCloskey Gun Controversy.
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