Prosecutor: McCloskeys Are Turning Case Into "Political Theater"

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who’s come under increasing criticism for her handling of the case against St. Louis homeowners Mark and Patricia McCloskey, is now accusing the couple of turning their case into “political theater,” though she’s apparently choosing to ignore the fact that as prosecutor, she’s the executive producer of any theatrics that might emerge from the case.

Gardner’s comments came in a court filing in response to a motion by the McCloskeys to get Gardner removed from the case over repeated emails from Gardner’s campaign that referenced the charges her office filed against the couple after they displayed firearms from the front yard of their home as hundreds of protesters marched through their private community in late June. The prosecutor claims that, far from engaging in political theater of her own, she was simply responding to Republican critics when she used the case to raise money for her re-election.

“She did not tie her reelection to the prosecution on this or any case,” Gardner’s filing said. “… Not a word discussed, referenced or implied that the future prosecution of this case was related in any way to the circuit attorney obtaining financial support from those receiving the email.”

Gardner’s response, initially filed under seal, was made public over the weekend by the St. Louis Circuit Court.

The McCloskeys’ lawyer, Joel Schwartz, said in a text message Monday that Gardner’s response “is not on point.”

“Amongst other issues, she spends multiple pages detailing the complaints of various politicians and anonymous commentators,” he said. “They are not parties, they are not the prosecutor, and she should understand the difference. We plan on addressing her response in the near future.”

I can’t wait to see that response, and I expect that Gardner’s accusations of political theater are going to be thrown right back in her face. Who was responsible for charges being filed in the first place? Gardner. Who decided to proceed with the case even after Gov. Brad Parson declared he would pardon the couple if they were convicted? Gardner. Whose office has been accused of altering evidence by turning Patricia McCloskey’s pistol from an inoperable firearm to one that was “readily capable” of being fired? Gardner. Who was the one who raised campaign cash off of the McCloskey case? Gardner.

From the get-go, Kim Gardner has been the one directing this bit of political theater, and for her own political advantage. Having won her Democratic primary earlier this month, Gardner’s now a shoo-in for reelection in November, in part thanks to her high-profile handling of the case against the McCloskeys. Gardner hasn’t been able to do anything to reduce the shootings and homicides in St. Louis, but she’s been much more effective in prosecuting gun owners attempting to protect themselves and their property from protesters.

Gardner’s likely going to generate more headlines in the weeks ahead, but I don’t think she’s going to be able to manufacture a court victory against the McCloskeys. As far as the St. Louis Circuit Attorney is concerned, the political theater she’s overseeing isn’t likely to have a happy ending outside of her reelection, but it’s become increasingly clear that Gardner’s top priority at the moment is her political career. Reelection may be all she needs to declare victory, even if the McCloskeys ultimately go free.