Mark and Patricia McCloskey are now facing felony unlawful use of a weapon charges for displaying a rifle and handgun and pointing them at protesters who had entered their private neighborhood, ending weeks of speculation that the pair would be charged by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. The Washington Post reports that while Gardner is charging the couple with both a felony and misdemeanor count, she’s recommending no prison time for the pair.
Gardner said in an interview with the AP ahead of more broadly announcing the charges that the McCloskeys’ actions risked creating a violent situation during an otherwise nonviolent protest.
“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner — that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,” Gardner said.Gardner is recommending a diversion program such as community service rather than jail time if the McCloskeys are convicted. Typically, class E felonies could result in up to four years in prison.
Will the Left be angry that the McCloskeys aren’t going to be nailed to the wall and sent to prison? Is this an example of class or race privilege? Could Gardner, who’s accused President Trump and Governor Brad Parson of political interference in the case, now draw the ire of Democrats for going easy on the McCloskeys? I wouldn’t be surprised to see it, but I don’t think the objections will be all that loud or long-lived. The idea here is to get the McCloskeys to plead guilty and avoid a trial where the outcome is uncertain for both parties.
Gardner’s already dangling the prospect of no jail time. Would she be willing to settle for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor, with community service instead of jail time? No loss of a law license or right to keep and bear arms, just a few hours a week volunteering at a soup kitchen or picking up trash along the roadside. The other option would be going all out at trial and pushing for prison time along with a conviction. Do the McCloskeys really want to take that risk?
Both Mark and Patricia McCloskey are personal injury attorneys, so while they may not be as well versed in the art of the plea deal as a veteran criminal defense attorney, they know how the system works. I’m very curious to see if they’ll play along and take a misdemeanor plea somewhere down the line, or if they’ll fight for a full acquittal.
In the meantime, Gardner’s decision not only ensured the prosecution of the McCloskeys will be a campaign issue in her own re-election bid, but given the embrace of the McCloskeys by the Trump campaign, they and their criminal case will be a recurring national news story between now and Election Day. Trump will undoubtably use the couple in his push to be seen as the law-and-order president, which means Joe Biden and Democrats will now officially do everything they can to demonize and destroy the couple’s credibility, livelihood, and reputation in the name of “justice.”
With Missouri Gov. Brad Parson already talking up a pardon for the McCloskeys before they were even charged, does an eventual plea bargain offer to a misdemeanor really have the allure that Gardner hopes it will have? If the McCloskeys choose to fight and lose, they can almost certainly count on the governor’s pardon. Why not go to trial? The risk seems to be relatively low with the governor in their corner, and the potential reward of acquittal is a distinct possibility, given that the McCloskeys never left their property and under Missouri law had a right to display their firearms if their were in fear for their lives.
Given the rampant violence in St. Louis in the weeks proceeding the protesters entering the McCloskeys neighborhood, I think there’s a good chance at least one juror would feel that the McCloskeys actions were legal, even if they could use a training class or two (I wouldn’t be surprised, by the way, if they’ve actually had a couple of those over the past few weeks). Ordinarily, a plea bargain like the one I outlined above would be a pretty decent deal if the McCloskeys wanted to avoid the risk of a trial, but if the risk of a trial itself has been largely avoided, Kim Gardner might be arguing her case before a jury after all.