St. Louis Prosecutor Kim Gardner to Resign June 1 After Weeks of Resistance
Katie Kull, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 4, 2023
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner announced Thursday that, after weeks of blistering pressure from Missouri lawmakers, she would indeed resign.
In a letter addressed to Gov. Mike Parson, Gardner made no mention of the turmoil in her office nor the extensive staff departures in recent weeks. Instead, she said she was stepping down, effective June 1, to prevent the state Legislature from passing a bill that would strip her of most of her power and “permanently remove the right of every St. Louis voter to elect their Circuit Attorney.”
Gardner’s supporters remained steadfast. “We just witnessed a modern-day lynching,” said Adolphus Pruitt, head of the local NAACP.
Gardner, 47, St. Louis’ first Black circuit attorney, swept into office in 2017 in a national wave of victories for progressive prosecutors, who pledged to be a unifying force and build public trust in the criminal justice system.
But she came under scrutiny within months of taking office for staff departures. Then, about a year into office, she indicted sitting Gov. Eric Greitens for taking a partially nude photo of a woman in a Central West End basement without her consent. But charges were eventually dropped, an investigator she hired pleaded guilty in federal court to concealing documents in the case, and Gardner herself was reprimanded by the Missouri Supreme Court and forced to pay a $750 fee in an ethics case over her office’s mishandling of evidence.
She continued to face public scrutiny over her “exclusion list” of St. Louis police officers, whose work she didn’t trust, and also for her decision to charge a Central West End couple with brandishing guns at racial justice protesters.
Still, Gardner was reelected for a second term in late 2020 in a landslide. She pledged to continue fighting for equality and criminal justice reforms in St. Louis.
But her second term brought more staff departures, leaving her with half the number of attorneys as when she took office. The state Legislature filed bills that would strip her of most of her power.
Then in February, the scandals intensified when a car speeding through downtown streets crashed, pinning between two vehicles a teen visiting St. Louis for a volleyball tournament, and leading to the amputation of both of her legs. The car’s driver, Daniel Riley, had remained free after court delays, despite violating his bond dozens of times.
Gardner’s office was widely blamed for delaying Riley’s trial and not filing to revoke bond. She, in turn, blamed a judge for not accepting a bond reduction request and released a statement: “This is not the time for finger-pointing,” she said then.
The reaction was swift. Many, including former allies, began calling for Gardner’s resignation. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey filed a lawsuit seeking her removal.
Gardner doubled down, calling the lawsuit a politically motivated attack on her office. She blamed subordinates for failures as the spotlight turned on individual case dismissals and delays. She announced she would run for reelection in 2024.
But prosecutors continued to resign.
Then, last week, a St. Louis judge found there was evidence Gardner should be held in contempt of court for failing to show up for a pair of court dates in an assault case. Bailey’s lawsuit cleared its first legal hurdle. And state senators announced they would debate a bill stripping Gardner of most of her power.