ST. LOUIS – “If it walks and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Those words coming from St. Louis Judge Christopher McGraugh about the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s defiance of a court order.
FOX 2 was the only news outlet in the online courtroom Wednesday amid legal fireworks over Kim Gardner’s communications.
McGraugh vigorously criticized the circuit attorney’s office for what he called repeated behavior. He was referring to a fight by a Washington DC reporter to obtain communications between Gardner and people of influence.
Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens continues demanding to know who Gardner spoke to during her failed case against him. Greitens was indicted in 2018 for invasion of privacy. He was accused of taking a picture of his blindfolded and bound mistress.
Greitens eventually resigned from office.
Greitens told FOX 2 this past February that he never took a picture. Prosecutors never found a picture. The case was eventually dismissed.
Reporter John Solomon, founder of Just the News, filed a lawsuit demanding records of attorney communications during the Greitens’ prosecution.
Solomon won a default judgment for the records in July; the circuit attorney’s office failed to respond. On Wednesday, the office’s new private counsel, David Luce from the firm Capes Sokol, said, “There’s no getting around the fact there were mistakes made in handling this case.”
“We apologize to the court and counsel for those mistakes. That said, the law is very clear. The punishment doesn’t not fit the crime,” Luce said.
Judge McGraugh countered: “This didn’t just happen once. This is a consistent behavior.”
The judge said he didn’t blame the previous attorney representing the circuit attorney’s office.
“I think it’s the office that’s attempting to obfuscate this process,” McGraugh said.
The new counselor for the CAO on this case, David Luce, answered, “(Previous counsel) was not instructed to slow play this case. That just did not happen. They’re on fire (busy) over there. (Previous counsel) was never instructed to slow play the case by anyone.”
After the hearing, attorney David Roland laughed at that assertion, telling FOX 2, “It’s just not true and the judge noted that.”
Roland is director of litigation for the Freedom Center for Missouri. He said the next fight will be to make sure the records aren’t completely blacked out.
“That is what they suggested, so I would hope that the judge would not let them get away with that,” he said. “Once you have defaulted in a case, you’re not supposed to be able to go back and argue the merits again. That’s kind of what the circuit attorney is asking to do. They want to be able to submit redacted documents and say there’s nothing to see here.”
The judge will issue a ruling soon, which could set aside the entire case. He could find the circuit attorney’s office in contempt or he could make specific decisions about what information should be released. We’re monitoring that.
A spokesperson for the circuit attorney said they are reviewing and complying with records requests on a regular basis. They said this is just one of many cases they’re answering and that they are doing their best under extraordinary circumstances.