Similar to many other urban areas of the country, St. Louis saw a dramatic increase in homicide in 2020. The Gateway to the West’s homicide rate per 100 thousand residents exploded from 64.5 in 2019 to 87.2 in 2020. The homicide rate was far and away the city’s highest in the preceding 50 years.
This startling increase in homicides has come under the watch of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. Elected to the office in 2016, Gardner has worked to “reform” the city’s criminal justice system - often placing her at odds with city law enforcement. Gardner has received significant support from anti-gun billionaire George Soros. As Politico reported back in 2016, Soros is engaged in a wide-ranging effort to remake the U.S. criminal justice system by electing activist prosecutors throughout the country.
Gardner and her office’s unserious approach to violent crime was demonstrated in the high-profile bungling of a murder case earlier this month.
On July 18, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported,
Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser on Wednesday dismissed first-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful gun possession charges against [defendant] after no one from the Circuit Attorney’s Office showed up for scheduled hearings in May, June and July.
Taking aim at Gardner and her office’s conduct, Judge Sengheiser went on to state,
The Circuit Attorney’s Office is ultimately the party responsible for protecting public safety by charging and then prosecuting those it believes commit crimes. In a case like this where the Circuit Attorney’s office has essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes, the court must impartially enforce the law and any resultant threat to public safety is the responsibility of the Circuit Attorney’s Office.
The accused is alleged to have shot and killed a man on April 9, 2020. Following the shooting, the defendant was the subject of a multi-state manhunt that involved the U.S. Marshals.
In a statement responding to Judge Sengheiser’s dismissal and the media inquiries it prompted, Gardner contended, “I am accountable to the public for the actions of the office and remain committed as ever to upholding the highest possible standards and practices of accountability at all levels of this office, particularly the public safety of the residents of the City of St. Louis. As a result, the individual in this case is in custody.”
However, shortly after Gardner’s statement, police told the Post-Dispatch that she was incorrect and that the accused murderer was in fact not in custody. As of July 21, the suspect was still at large.
Following news of the accused’s release, the family of his alleged victim were critical of Gardner’s office. A sister of the victim told local news station KDSK that they had not been informed by the prosecutor’s office of the suspect’s release and only learned about it from the media. Another sister of the deceased said “Kim Gardner is a poor excuse for a prosecutor. It’s not fair.”
Gardner and her office’s dereliction of duty taken alone is disturbing. However, Gardner’s behavior takes on a sinister character when her lethargic treatment of alleged violent criminals is juxtaposed with the enthusiasm she exhibits in using her office to pursue political adversaries.
Consider the high-profile case against gun owners Mark and Patricia McCloskey.
On June 28, 2020 the couple were inside their home on a private street in St. Louis, when a group of activists proceeded into the private community and gathered around their property. Fearing for their safety and property in the wake of weeks of violent rioting throughout the country, the pair retrieved firearms and went out on their lawn.
Pictures of the couple defending themselves and their property were quickly posted to social media and broadcast by the press. Those sympathetic to the aggressive left-wing political tactics and unsympathetic to property or Second Amendment rights took umbrage with the McCloskey’s unabashed exercise of self-defense and called for the couple to be prosecuted.
In July 2020, Gardner charged the couple with “unlawful use of weapons” for “Exhibit[ing], in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner.” The crime is a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
Now, a handful of well-meaning members of the firearm community have taken issue with some of the finer points of the McCloskeys’ gun handling as the crowd descended upon them. However, even if one subscribes to these critiques, it would be reasonable to expect an unbiased prosecutor to use their discretion to bestow mercy on an individual for suboptimal gun handling on their own property in what was likely one of the most harrowing moments of their life.
Gardner, of course, is biased. In December, a judge was forced to remove Gardner and her office from the McCloskey case after Gardner boasted of charging the McCloskeys in a fundraising email.
Even though progressive criminal justice “reformers” profess opposition to overcharging criminal defendants, Gardner had no qualms about employing the tactic against the McCloskeys. Despite Gardner’s best efforts, in June the couple pled guilty to minor misdemeanors.
St. Louis under Gardner is emblematic of a broader trend in politicized prosecution. Under this disordered regime, the politically disfavored are doggedly persecuted while violent criminals go free.