St. Louis, MO – A judge on Thursday disqualified St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and her office from prosecuting the couple charged with pointing guns at protesters in front of their home, citing the fact the prosecutor sent improper fundraising emails that mentioned Mark and Patricia McCloskey.
Circuit Judge Thomas Clark II’s order said that the two fundraising emails Gardner sent out before and after she charged the McCloskeys with felony gun crimes made it look like the prosecutor “initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“Like a needle pulling thread, she links the defendant and his conduct to her critics,” the judge wrote. “These emails are tailored to use the June 28 incident to solicit money by positioning her against defendant and her more vocal critics.”
Clark’s decision was considered a blow to the prosecutor’s office which has spent a lot of time defending Gardner’s progressive tactics, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Joel Schwartz, the attorney for the McCloskeys, filed a motion to disqualify Gardner and her entire office in July and called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to handle the case, KMOV reported.
The judge’s order on Dec. 10 barred the whole St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office from participating in the prosecution of the couple, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“This is a high-profile case, receiving extensive media coverage, eliminating any possibility that any assistant circuit attorney is unaware of Ms. Gardner’s incipient interest, initial involvement and advocacy on this matter,” Clark said.
The court filing by the McCloskey’s attorney showed that Gardner sent an email out to potential donors before charges were filed against the couple condemning them, KMOV reported.
“You might be familiar with the story of the couple who brandished guns during a peaceful protest outside of their mansion,” the letter read.
It also said “…President Trump and the Governor are fighting for the two who pointed guns at peaceful citizens…” along with links to donate money to her campaign, KMOV reported.
The McCloskeys’ attorney said the campaign emails showed Gardner had a personal interest in the outcome of their case.
“Here, a reasonable person with access to all the facts would find that there was at least the appearance of impropriety, in that Ms. Gardner’s decision may have been affected by her personal, political, financial, and professional interests, and that her neutrality, judgement, and ability to administer the law in an objective manner may have been compromised,” Schwartz wrote in his motion to the court.
Gardner’s attorneys pushed back and said the prosecutor had a right to defend herself against attacks by Republic political foes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The prosecutor also earlier tweeted that “it is extraordinarily rare for the court to order the disqualification of the elected prosecutor’s entire office” and called the McCloskeys’ allegations “baseless and meritless.”
The judge said Gardner had a right to rebut criticism from political opponents but said he had concerns about her decision to reference an active criminal case in a fundraiser, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“In short, she identifies her critics, links them to [Mark McCloskey], requests the campaign contribution to fight back and forewarns criminal prosecution by holding defendant ‘accountable,'” Clark wrote. “To a reasonable person, this language forecasts prosecutorial action.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt expressed his opposition to the prosecution of the McCloskeys by filing a brief supporting a motion to dismiss the case, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson has said that if the McCloskeys are convicted, he will pardon them.