A day after filing a federal lawsuit alleging a racist conspiracy to prevent her from enacting her agenda, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner received a show of support from six prosecutors from around the country who were elected under the banner of shaking up the criminal justice system.
At a press conference on the steps of the Carnahan Courthouse in St. Louis, the prosecutors praised Gardner as someone willing to stand up to the status quo — and added that her federal lawsuit was necessary to fight back against powerful interest groups.
“What we can all attest to is that keepers of the status quo that brought us mass incarceration, the overcriminalization of black and brown people, tough sentences, no redemption and no second chances won’t give up their power quietly,” said Baltimore State’s Attorney Marylin Mosby.
Joining her at the rally for Gardner was Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy; Portsmouth, Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales; Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida State’s Attorney Aramis Ayala; and Suffolk County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
Gardner has sued the city, its police union and five other defendants over what she calls a racist effort to block her agenda. She said on Tuesday that the real issue is that she’s pushing hard for reforms, including a closer look at the conduct of St. Louis police officers.
“The people are tired. They elected me to do the job that they elected me to do to implement reforms,” Gardner said. “And enough’s enough.”
Much of the conflict for Gardner stems from the 2018 prosecution of then-Gov. Eric Greitens. A grand jury indicted Greitens for taking a photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair, without her consent. But the case fell apart after an investigator Gardner hired faced a slew of allegations, including lying during a deposition.
A special prosecutor indicted that investigator, William Tisaby, on a perjury charge. Gardner has been in a protracted legal battle about supplying documents and grand jury testimony in that case, which her lawsuit says is fraught with conflicts.
“It’s cost the taxpayers way too much money, and it is tearing apart this city,” said St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt. “And it is tearing apart this criminal justice system and the faith that people have in it.”
A spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said on Monday that the city plans to fight the suit.
And St. Louis Police Officers Association business manager Jeff Roorda, who is one of the defendants in Gardner’s lawsuit, dismissed the suit as an attempt to deflect attention from the special prosecutor’s inquiry.
“This is the last act of a desperate woman who wants to silence her critics, and she’s abusing her elected position to do that,” Roorda said.
In response to Roorda’s comments, Gardner on Tuesday called her former colleague in the Missouri House “a disgruntled former police officer that has no credibility.”
“So whether he believes anything, it’s a non-factor,” Gardner said. “And I don’t really care what he says, because he’s not balanced. He’s against any efforts to reform.”
She went on to say the lawsuit will bring “out all sides,” adding that the federal judiciary will decide the merit of the case.
Washington University law professor Peter Joy said there are opposing opinions about Gardner that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. He says Gardner and her supporters see entities like the police union as out to get her, while those opposing her believe she’s made mistakes. He says there can be truth in both positions.
“This is pretty much like a vegetable-soup kind of problem that she’s been facing, because there’s a lot of different ingredients and a lot of different pushes and pulls going on,” Joy said.
The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages and asking a judge to stop the defendants from “violating Gardner’s civil rights.”
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