Kim Gardner, St. Louis Circuit attorney has had a tough week.
Judge Michael Noble ruled last Thursday that there was enough evidence to prove that Gardner and Assistant Circuit Attorney Chris Desilets had “intentionally disregarded the judicial system” for them to be charged with “indirect criminal contempt”. He called Gardner’s office “a rudderless boat of chaos” during the proceedings. The matter will be heard again on May 30th.
As we reported, Desilets, along with another top prosecutor, resigned. This leaves the office with only one-third of its prosecutors since February.
After the resignations of these two officials, Judge John Torbitzky decided that the proceedings brought by Missouri Attorney-General Andrew Bailey, to remove Gardner, from office, can continue. He denied Gardner’s Motion for Dismissal as to seven out of 10 counts against her.
Torbitzky wrote that if all the allegations were true, “the number and impact of alleged incidents… leads to a reasonable conclusion that (Gardner has) failed to act in a manner contrary to his duty.”
We have extensively covered this, but these rare proceedings are the culmination of a long and inexcusable history of incompetence by Gardner and her office.
Gardner’s office is under fire for its lack of staff and dysfunctional organization. In February, however, these complaints were replaced by calls for her resignation following the crash in which a volleyball player from out of town lost both legs. The driver of one vehicle remained free despite repeatedly violating his bond conditions in a pending case of robbery.
Bailey filed a lawsuit to remove Gardner from her position in February. She argued that she had failed to fulfill her duty to prosecute and inform victims of the progress in their case. In March, Bailey added 100 pages to a 10-count complaint accusing Gardner of failing to supervise or train her subordinates. He also accused her of violating the rights and freedoms of defendants and victims, and of refusing to review cases of police use of force.
Gardner’s response has been to blame subordinates for the list of mistakes and to decry that the lawsuit is political, borne out of racism and misogyny. She has not taken any responsibility for the chaos which led former Judge Booker T. Shaw who represents the 22nd Judicial Circuit judges in the quo-warranto proceedings to state that Gardner’s Office is “near collapse”. Judge Torbitzky disagreed.
Torbitzky stated on Tuesday that all but three of the counts should be retained. Torbitzky dismissed charges that Gardner had violated the Sunshine Law, failed to work with the police in destroying old evidence, and mismanaged the office’s finances. He found that the allegations, while troubling, did not constitute a claim under the removal statute.
Gardner also lost many of his objections to the AG’s discovery requests.
Torbitzky rejected Gardner’s arguments that a subpoena issued by the Attorney General’s Office, which requested information such as emails, case files, and complaints of victims from victims in 59 points should be dismissed because it is “unduly burdensome”, and compromises prosecutorial privilege.
Gardner’s office was ordered to deliver almost all the documents in 30 days.
Torbitzky is no longer presiding over the proceedings because Gardner requested that the judge be changed (which she was entitled to under the rules). The Missouri Supreme Court transferred this case to Judge Thomas Chapman of Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals on Wednesday. It is not clear at this time if the trial date of September 25th set by Judge Torbitzky, will be kept.