The legal saga of Mark and Patricia McCloskey took a surprising turn on Thursday when the couple pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of harassment and assault, agreeing to forfeit the firearms they displayed as a crowd of protesters tromped through their gated community last summer.
Gov. Mike Parson had previously vowed to pardon the couple if they were convicted on charges of unlawful use of a weapon, and the McCloskeys had previously said through their attorney that they weren’t interested in accepting pre-trial diversion in lieu of a trial, which makes the news of their guilty plea a bit of a shock.
After the court hearing on Thursday, Mark McCloskey, who’s running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, was unrepentant about the incident last June.
“I’d do it again,” he said from the courthouse steps in downtown St. Louis. “Any time the mob approaches me, I’ll do what I can to put them in imminent threat of physical injury because that’s what kept them from destroying my house and my family.”
The McCloskeys’ defense lawyer, Joel Schwartz, said after the hearing the couple had hoped to raise money by donating Mark’s rifle to charity, but acknowledged that it was an unusual request.
Because the charges are misdemeanors, the McCloskeys do not face the possibility of losing their law licenses and can continue to own firearms.
On the courthouse steps after the hearing, special prosecutor Richard Callahan said the misdemeanor plea was reasonable noting the McCloskeys called the police, no shots were fired and no one was hurt.
“But I think that their conduct was a little unreasonable in the end,” he said. “I don’t think people should view this case as some type of betrayal or assault on the Second Amendment. We still have the Second Amendment rights. It’s just that the Second Amendment does not permit unreasonable conduct.”
Callahan had recently amended the charges against the McCloskeys to give a jury the option of convicting the couple of misdemeanor harassment instead of the felony unlawful use of a weapon charges that were originally filed by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. Gardner was removed from prosecuting the pair by a judge who ruled that Gardner had disqualified herself by using the McCloskey case in fundraising appeals for her re-election campaign.
I confess that I didn’t see this plea deal coming. With the governor assuring the pair of a pardon, and Mark McCloskey’s senate campaign in full swing, I saw the trial as an opportunity for McCloskey to get a lot of free press coverage without running the risk of actually going to jail or prison if he and his wife were convicted. It’s one thing to run for Senate on a campaign of “I stood up to the mob and stood my ground when I was prosecuted for it.” It’s something else entirely to base your campaign message on “I stood up to the mob but took a plea deal because it was in my best interest to do so.”
The legal saga is over, but the political campaign will continue, at least for now. I’m not sure what Mark McCloskey’s been using as his intro music for his campaign rallies, but I have a suggestion for the next one.