When Mark and Patricia McCloskey accepted a deal from St. Louis prosecutors and pled guilty to misdemeanor charges in connection with their holding firearms outside their St. Louis mansion as scores of protesters marched through their private neighborhood in June of 2020, one of the conditions of their agreement was that they would forfeit the guns in question.
After the McCloskeys were pardoned of their “crime” by Gov. Mike Parson, however, the couple sued to get their guns back, and on Wednesday the pair were in court for a hearing on the matter. While the judge made no ruling from the bench, the McCloskeys did learn that their guns haven’t been destroyed.
Robert Dierker of the City Counselor’s Office said in a virtual court hearing Wednesday that the city has yet to dispose of the guns.
“Obviously with our customary efficiency, we should have destroyed (the weapons) months ago,” Dierker said. “We haven’t. So McCloskey’s a beneficiary of bureaucratic, I want to say, ineptitude. But in any event, it’s fortuitous that the weapons still exist.”
Since the McCloskeys were the recipients of a malicious and politically motivated prosecution, I suppose it might be some small comfort that they’re now the beneficiaries of bureaucratic ineptitude. But the fact that they guns still exist doesn’t mean that the attorneys will automatically get them back. Their argument, in essence, is that Parson’s pardon shouldn’t just free them of any criminal conviction, but negate the terms of the plea bargain they accepted before the pardon came down.
“The loss of that property would certainly be a legal disqualification, impediment or other legal disadvantage, of which I have now been absolved by the governor, and therefore the state no longer has any legitimate reason to hold the property,” he said.
The City Counselor’s Office, which is representing the police and sheriff’s departments, said in court pleadings and at Wednesday’s hearing that Parson’s pardon obliterated the conviction, it did not obliterate the plea bargain in which McCloskey forfeited the guns.
“We do not think he can demonstrate the right to immediate possession,” Dierker said.
Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty took the case under advisement.
The cases raises interesting legal arguments on both sides, and I have no idea which way the judge will rule here. From the state’s perspective, however, the case against the McCloskeys has been a stinker since Day One, and it’s telling that even at this late date city and county officials seem intent to punish the couple as much as they can rather than letting the matter drop. The easiest thing to do would be to simply return the guns to the couple and let the matter drop, but that would allow the McCloskeys to declare victory, and that’s simply unacceptable to the powers that be in St. Louis.
On the other hand, the McCloskeys are attorneys themselves, and they presumably knew what they were agreeing to when they accepted the plea deal. If they didn’t want to give up their guns, why did they sign off on their forfeiture, especially knowing that Parson had already vowed to pardon them for any crime they were convicted of? I’m sure that taking a deal instead of going to trial saved them some money in attorneys’ fees, but it clearly cost them ownership of the firearms in question as well.
On a personal level, given that I don’t think the McCloskeys should have ever faced criminal charges in the first place, I absolutely believe their firearms should be returned to them. Whether the law requires that, however, remains to be seen. Still, the city of St. Louis doesn’t have to wait for Judge Moriarty to issue her ruling. They could return the guns to the couple today and be done with the matter. It’s only the continued desire to punish the McCloskeys that’s keeping this case in the court system even after the pair have been pardoned.