Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has filed paperwork to remove St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, accusing her of failing to do her job after a repeat offender out on bond allegedly caused a car crash that forced the amputation of a teen athlete’s legs.
Mr. Bailey said he filed suit to force her dismissal as prosecutor at 12:01 p.m. Thursday, a day after she rejected his ultimatum for her to resign.
He accused Ms. Gardner of neglecting her duties for years by failing to prosecute cases pending in her jurisdiction; failing to confer and inform victims about the status of cases; and failing to charge new cases referred to her by the St. Louis police.
“These three behaviors constitute a continued pattern of failure to discharge her duties in office and represent neglect under the statutes and warrant removal,” said Mr. Bailey, a Republican, at a press briefing. “At the end of the day, this is about the rule of law and about justice.”
Ms. Gardner, a Democrat, was first elected in 2016 with support from a political-action committee funded by Democratic megadonor George Soros. Like other so-called Soros DAs, she has been accused of prioritizing social justice over holding criminals accountable.
She swung back Thursday at a press conference by declaring that she would “focus on the people who elected me,” saying that if voters want to remove her, they may do so at the ballot box.
She also accused Mr. Bailey of pulling a “political stunt” and called him an “unelected individual.” He was appointed to replace Eric Schmitt, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.
“This is nothing more than voter suppression, which we’ve seen on the national level as well as in the state of Missouri,” Ms. Gardner said.
The catalyst for Mr. Bailey’s demand was a Feb. 18 incident in which 16-year-old Janae Edmonson lost both her legs after being run over in a car crash while walking back to her St. Louis hotel.
A resident of Nashville, she was in town for a volleyball tournament with her family.
Behind the wheel was Daniel Riley, 21, who was out on bond on 2020 charges of armed robbery.
The suspect was placed on house arrest and placed on a tracking device, but violated the conditions 54 times before July 18, when the prosecutor’s office refiled the case.
He recorded another 50 violations after that, including 10 just in the month before the crash. He also did not have a driver’s license, according to local news reports.
Even so, the circuit attorney’s office “never filed a motion to revoke Riley’s bond,” said the attorney general.
Ms. Gardner defended her record, saying her office applied three times for bond revocation, but that the judge rejected or ignored her requests.
“While it is true my office could have done more, to say we did nothing is not only disingenuous, but is willfully ignorant of the reality of our court system,” she said.
Ms. Gardner added that “there are numerous attacks on our office, there are numerous individuals that have an agenda to make sure that my office does not succeed.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Mr. Bailey raised doubts about her explanation, saying there were “inconsistencies in her excuses and the docket entries on Case.net. We’re going to get to the bottom of that.”
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s press conference on St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner
— FOX2now (@FOX2now) February 23, 2023
Lining up behind Mr. Bailey was the St. Louis County Police Association, which wrote on Twitter that the “ineptitude and malfeasance of [Ms. Gardner] is a stain on not only our region, but the entire State of Missouri.”
Also critical of Ms. Gardner was St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, who said Wednesday that “I think she needs to do some serious soul-searching on whether or not she wants to continue as circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis.”
“This incident and others have highlighted the fact that some improvements need to be made in her office, because she’s lost the trust of the people,” Ms. Jones told reporters.
Crime in St. Louis has soared under Ms. Gardner, who has been criticized for charging fewer felonies, winning fewer convictions, and presiding over enormous staff turnover, according to a Heritage Foundation report.
Ms. Gardner expressed sympathy for the crash victim and her family, saying her “focus is on the recovery of this young woman, Janae Edmondson, and on making sure that the individual actually responsible for what happened to her is held accountable.”
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