A St. Louis judge has ordered Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and her entire office off of the prosecution of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple charged with unlawful use of a weapon after they displayed a rifle and pistol as hundreds of protesters trespassed through their private neighborhood as they made their way to the home of St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson for a demonstration.
On Thursday, Judge Thomas Clark ruled that Gardner’s repeated references to the McCloskey case in fundraising emails for her re-election effort “raise the appearance of impropriety and jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
“Ms. Gardner has every right to rebut criticism, but it appears unnecessary to stigmatize defendant – or even mention him – in campaign solicitations, especially when she purports to be responding to others,” he wrote. “In fact, the case law and Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit it.”
Should Clark’s ruling stand, a special prosecutor will be appointed to handle the case. In St. Louis, the presiding judge picks the special prosecutor. Judge Rex Burlison is currently St. Louis’ presiding judge.
Clark has scheduled a status hearing on the case for Jan. 7, 2021.
Clark noted in his 22-page ruling that it’s rare for prosecutors to be removed from cases and said that he didn’t reach his decision lightly, but added that Gardner’s series of fundraising appeals based off of the McCloskey case “aim to raise money using the defendant and the circumstances surrounding the case to rally Ms. Gardner’s political base and fuel contributions.”
Gardner was successful in winning re-election in St. Louis, but her prosecution of the McCloskeys is an absolute dumpster fire and proof that voters should have thought a little harder before they cast their ballots. While Gardner can appeal the judge’s decision, it’s likely that a special prosecutor will be appointed to handle the case against the McCloskeys. Today’s decision only adds more weight to the argument by the couple that their prosecution was politically motivated from the start, and given the fact that Gov. Mike Parson has already vowed to pardon the couple if they are convicted, there’s little need to waste taxpayer time and expense on a trial that’s based on trumped up charges in the first place.
Joel Schwartz, the McCloskeys’ attorney, says he’s hopeful that once a special prosecutor has been appointed, they’ll decide that charges weren’t warranted to begin with.
“This is what we wanted,” Schwartz said. “We would like a fair-mined prosecutor to take a look at the alleged crimes and reassess the evidence and see what they come up with because we don’t believe any of the evidence supports any of the charges. … as long as that happens, then I think we’ll have the right outcome and that would hopefully be no charges.”