The attorney for Mark and Patricia McCloskey has filed a motion to disqualify the prosecutor who brought charges of unlawful use of a weapon against the couple after they displayed firearms while hundreds of protesters marched through their private neighborhood earlier this summer. Joel Schwartz claims that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s decision to go after the couple was motivated by politics, not justice, and says that Gardner used the McCloskeys as campaign fodder for her re-election bid, including fundraising appeals that referenced the case.
According to Wednesday’s court filing, in one email, sent out before charges were filed, Gardner’s campaign literature read: “You might be familiar with the story of the couple who brandished guns during a peaceful protest outside of their mansion” and “..President Trump and the Governor are fighting for the two who pointed guns at peaceful citizens..” The campaign literature contained links to donate.
The filing also states campaign literature was sent after the charges, again referencing the McCloskey’s case and links to donate.
The McCloskeys’ attorneys state the campaign emails show Gardner has personal interest in the outcome of the case.
The Democrat primary for St. Louis elections will be held on August 4th, and given the politics of the deep blue city, the winner of the primary is virtually guaranteed victory in November. Gardner has a number of challengers for the Circuit Attorney position, and it’s clear that she’s tried to use the McCloskey case to raise her own profile in the weeks before Election Day.
Schwartz isn’t asking for the charges to be dismissed outright, only that Gardner be removed from the case and a special prosecutor be appointed in her place. Given the fact that Gardner herself has said that she’d be fine with the couple entering pre-trial diversion, which would allow them to avoid a criminal record, it’s hard to justify the additional expense of a special prosecutor, especially after Gov. Mike Parson has stated that if the McCloskeys are convicted, he’ll pardon the pair.
If this were really about justice, the McCloskeys wouldn’t be facing criminal charges for protecting themselves and their property at all. From the get-go, the zealous attempts by Gardner to prosecute the husband and wife appear to have been based far more on generating headlines and attention than public safety. The case should be dismissed entirely, as Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has requested, but at the very least Gardner shouldn’t have anything to do with the prosecution going forward.