ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Attorney General on Thursday filed a petition to remove the St. Louis Circuit Attorney from office because the city prosecutor refused to step down.
AG Andrew Bailey said his office, at 12:01 p.m., filed a writ of quo warranto against Kim Gardner, accusing her of neglecting her duties as circuit attorney. Gardner had been given a noon ultimatum to resign, but declined to do so.
The circuit attorney is facing a wave of calls to leave office in the aftermath of a tragedy involving a Tennessee teenager who lost both of her legs in a crash caused by a driver with dozens of bond violations.
“The circuit attorney has failed to prosecute cases that are pending in her jurisdiction,” Bailey said. “These are cases she’s charged but then allowed to languish and have sat and resulted in eventual dismissal or failure to prosecute.”
The filing also claims Gardner did not keep in touch with the families of victims to tell them about the outcome of cases and did not file charges on cases brought to her by police.
“Prosecutors who fail to do that aren’t doing their job,” Bailey said. “Thankfully, this rarely happens in the history of the state of Missouri, but at the end of the day, I’m obligated under the statute to hold Kim Gardner responsible for her failure to discharge her legal, moral, and ethical duties.”
Janae Edmondson, 17, was visiting St. Louis with her family in order to participate in a volleyball tournament. The family was walking in downtown St. Louis around 8:40 p.m. last Saturday when a speeding driver failed to yield and collided with another vehicle. That second vehicle struck Edmondson, who has had both of her legs amputated since the crash.
The man accused in the crash, Daniel Riley, 21, was out on bond from a 2020 armed robbery case. Last August, he was given a personal recognizance bond that required him to be tracked by GPS and stay at home. Court records show he violated house arrest dozens of times leading up to the crash.
This comes after the House passed legislation earlier this month allowing the governor to appoint a special prosecutor for every 35 homicide cases in the past year per 100,000 people. Originally the bill was targeted at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office but was broadened while moving through the process. House Bill 301 is not in the hands of the Senate, which the top senator said Wednesday members are not talking about pushing the legislation forward.
House Democrats defended Gardner during debate on the legislation, but now some say it’s time for a change.
“But this case didn’t involve guns, it involved a breakdown in the office,” Rep. Steve Butz (D-St. Louis) said. “It is important that she steps up and takes responsibility and correct the mistakes that were made.”
“I have had constituents who have made it very clear that they want Kim Gardner to step down, so my district has told me that is what they would like, and I agree with them,” Rep. Donna Baringer (D-St. Louis) said.
The accident happened in Rep. Rasheen Aldridge’s district. Aldridge previously defended Gardner and her office two weeks ago when the House was debating the bill.
“We have a circuit attorney’s office that has truly lost the trust and the hope of the people of the City of St. Louis,” Aldridge said. “There’s been a constant lack of evidence that she is able to help make sure she is able to help victims’ families get justice.”
But some Democrats from the city say it should be up to voters next year when her position is up for reelection.
“This tragedy is being politicized and turned to try and take over the City of St. Louis,” Rep. LaKeySha Bosely (D-St. Louis) said. “We, as the people of St. Louis, and as a voter of the City of St. Louis, I want my vote to be heard.”
Joel Currier, a spokesperson for the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, said prosecutors and defense attorneys are notified every time there is a bond violation.
“Every time a violation was filed, the assigned prosecutor and defense attorney of record received a notification via email according to normal procedure,” Currier said in a statement. “However, the prosecutors to this day has never filed a motion to revoke Riley’s bond in response to any of the 51 violations filed in his pending robbery case.”
Gardner’s office, in a statement Wednesday, alleges that prosecutors asked for higher bonds several times, though judges denied such requests. The office says the most recent effort to address Riley’s bond conditions came in January 2023, though says “there was no response” upon asking the court for a hearing date over Riley’s bond.
Attorney General Bailey said Gardner has failed in executing her duties. He said that his office has lawyers available to help local prosecutors when requested, but he is unaware of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office ever filing such a request.
Bailey, a one-time assistant prosecuting attorney in Warren County, hopes to get the matter before a judge as soon as possible.
“At the end of the day, this is about the rule of law and about justice,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s quo warranto makes three claims against Gardner. The first, that she failed to prosecute cases pending in her jurisdiction; second, that she failed to “confer and inform” victims of court procedure on numerous occasions; and, finally, she’s neglected to file charges in new cases sent to her by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Adolphus M. Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP, said both the Missouri Attorney General and Senate Pro Tem have been misled on the matter by local police, and that he has “provided both offices with a set of facts that at least provides a clearer picture of the adjudication of Mr. Daniel Riley.”
Regarding the Riley case, Bailey said there are inconsistencies in Gardner’s claims, and that docket entries on Missouri Casenet prove that.
Were Gardner to resign or be removed from office, Bailey said Governor Mike Parson has the authority to fill the role if there is a vacancy. The governor said Thursday that if he has to fill the seat, he will work with city administrators and the mayor’s office to find the most qualified candidate.
“This is nothing new, it’s just a matter that this probably brought it all to the top,” Parson said. “I definitely think there is plenty of evidence what I believe she is not doing and what she needs to be doing as the prosecutor of St. Louis City.”
Gardner held a press conference Thursday afternoon saying she has no intentions of stepping down, and defended her actions.
Gardner has faced mounting calls to resign from Missouri lawmakers and St. Louis aldermen, while St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones added that Gardner “needs to do some soul-searching” after recent developments.
This latest incident is another in a long wave of criticism and challenges facing Gardner. She was previously disciplined last year amid allegations of concealing evidence in a high-profile case. Former Attorney General Eric Schmitt also accused her of concealing evidence in efforts to vacate the conviction of Lamar Johnson.