St. Louis Circuit Court Attorney Kimberly Gardner accused the McCloskeys, who are defendants in a case Gardner is prosecuting, of turning the legal proceedings into “political theater” after they motioned to have her removed from the case.
The attorney for Mark and Patricia McCloskey, Joel Schwartz, filed a motion on July 29 to have Gardner barred from prosecuting their case after Gardner referenced the case in two campaign emails, one sent before charges were filed and one after. Gardner’s response to the McCloskeys was filed under seal but released to the public over the weekend by the St. Louis Circuit Court, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Gardner pushed back against Schwartz’s assertion that the campaign emails carried “the appearance of impropriety,” that Gardner “may have been affected by her personal, political, financial, and professional interests, and that her neutrality, judgement, and ability to administer law in an objective manner may have been compromised.”
Gardner asserted that the campaign emails were not sent out in an effort to benefit from the high-profile case but in response to Republican attacks against her in the press over her decision to investigate the McCloskeys, and then over her decision to charge them with gun use violations for threatening protesters who had broken into the McCloskeys’ private, gated neighborhood.
Gardner’s 23-page filing reads in part:
Nothing in either of the two campaign emails the Defendant complains about approaches the type or level of misconduct needed to remove the Circuit Attorney or her entire office. The Defendants make no argument of an actual conflict of interest that would require the prosecutor to be removed from the case. (Def. Mot. at 6). Their argument of an “appearance of impropriety” falls flat when evaluated against the necessary standard to remove a prosecutor and an application of that standard to any reasonable review of all the facts. Applying the legal standard, this Court must therefore deny the motion and must instruct the defense to cease its attempts to turn these criminal proceedings into political theater.
Schwartz dismissed Gardner’s rebuttal in a message to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, saying that the filing “is not on point.” In the filing, Gardner references criticisms leveled against her by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, and others to justify the emails.
“Amongst other issues, she spends multiple pages detailing the complaints of various politicians and anonymous commentators,” Schwartz said. “They are not parties, they are not the prosecutor, and she should understand the difference. We plan on addressing her response in the near future.”
Gardner sent out fundraising emails before and after July 20 when she charged McCloskeys. The emails make reference to “the couple who brandished guns during a peaceful protest” and accuse Republicans and “the right-wing media” of weaponizing the incident to attack and discredit Black Lives Matter.
“Kim needs your help to fight back! Her election is only weeks away. And right now she is under national scrutiny from our divisive President, the Republican establishment of Missouri, and the right-wing media, including Fox News,” one email says in part. “St. Louis will have an opportunity to re-elect progressive circuit attorney Kim Gardner, who time and time again has shown us she isn’t afraid to stand up and hold those accountable who are perpetuating a system of racism and police brutality.”