St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she acted appropriately when her office decided in 2018 to charge former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony.
“I steadfastly maintain that all of my actions were both legal and ethical, pertaining to my investigation or my decision to charge the former governor,” Gardner said Thursday at a news conference where she was surrounded by more than a dozen political and religious supporters.
The comments were Gardner’s first public remarks since a grand jury last month indicted William Tisaby, a former FBI agent she hired to investigate whether Greitens took a semi-nude photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair.
Tisaby is charged with several felonies including perjury and evidence tampering. He pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has said they will fight all the charges.
The grand jury disbanded earlier this week without charging Gardner, though the indictment says Gardner knew about Tisaby’s conduct and did not report it to police or correct it. Gardner dropped the charge against Greitens after a judge ruled she could be called as a witness in the case regarding Tisaby’s investigation. Gardner said she had to drop the charge because she couldn’t be a witness in a case her office was prosecuting.
Greitens’ defense team said Tisaby hindered their case by lying and withholding evidence and asked police to investigate after the charge against Greitens was dismissed. A special prosecutor, St. Louis attorney Gerard Carmody, was appointed to handle the case. He said in a brief statement issued Thursday that while the grand jury had been disbanded, the investigation continued.
Gardner’s office, often using outside attorneys, had fought Carmody’s appointment all the way to the state Supreme Court.
“The controversy of the appointment for a special prosecutor, and the many legal battles that followed and further divided our city, has the potential to further erode trust in the criminal justice system, especially in communities where such faith is already weak,” Gardner said Thursday.
Gardner did not address the indictment, saying she could not comment on ongoing litigation. But she encouraged city residents to look beyond one case “as a measure of competence and success.”
“The true measure, however, lies in how we handle the 10,000 criminal cases that are referred to our office annually,” she said. “The true measure is ensuring that criminal prosecutions are guided by consideration of public safety and reducing long-term community harm, and are not merely determining if a charge is possible.”
Gardner’s supporters have claimed for months that the decision to appoint a special prosecutor to handle any case against her was racially motivated — a claim repeated Thursday by Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP.
Pruitt said that Gardner’s election as the city’s first African American prosecutor in 2016 resonated in the community because of the promise of fairness and justice in a system that hasn’t always been either to people of color.
“Then, these other things unfolded, and we as a people felt we were right back where we were when we got off the ship in Jamestown, again fighting and seeking for fairness and equality, especially in the very justice system that we’ve been told is there to protect all of us,” he said.
Without naming specific outlets, Pruitt took the media to task for what he called “a tremendous amount of reporting and scrutiny of this office and this prosecutor. And not all of it has been, we feel as a community, fair and balanced.” He said the office will be asking media outlets to give the same amount of attention to “the things that she’s been able to accomplish and reforms she’s been able to put in place, so you and the citizens will get a very clear picture as to why the African American community felt it was under attack when she became under attack.”
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