ST. LOUIS – Amid calls to resign and a legal filing to remove her from office, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said Thursday that she has no intention of stepping down.
Earlier Thursday, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey filed a writ of quo warranto to remove Gardner from office, accusing her of neglecting her duties as circuit attorney. Bailey had given Gardner a noon ultimatum to resign, but she refused.
At a news conference in front of her office in the St. Louis Circuit Court Building, Gardner defended the way she handled the case of Daniel Riley, a suspect in a robbery who was in a crash last weekend that left a teen severely hurt. At the time of the crash, Riley, who was 21, was waiting to go to court for an armed robbery case from 2020.
Janae Edmondson, 17, was visiting St. Louis with her family from Nashville, Tennessee, 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.
Edmondson’s parents and critics of the circuit attorney have been asking why Riley was not in jail. 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.
Gardner said her office filed requests to revoke Riley’s bond on three separate occasions—in December 2021, August 2022, and as recently as January 2023—and that the judge in the case either ignored or denied their 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.
Gardner said her office cannot force a judge to revoke a bond for any defendant. She said these accusations have led to harassment of employees and staff in the Circuit Attorney’s Office.
Gardner also alleged the assistant circuit attorney responsible for prosecuting the Riley case has faced harassment and threats, and she condemned those actions.
“And while I understand that politics will always play a role, my office will return to focusing on the important work that the people of the City of St. Louis elected me (to do),” Gardner shared.
FOX 2 reporter Chris Hayes asked Gardner why there is no record of her office filing a motion to revoke Riley’s bond. Gardner responded by saying motions to revoke a bond can be made orally or in writing. Her office made numerous oral requests to revoke Riley’s bond.
However, according to the Missouri Courts Municipal Clerk Manual, a judge would make note of such a request on the docket sheet.
When asked to respond to Mayor Tishaura Jones’ comments that Gardner has lost the trust of the people, a group of individuals off camera began shouting down reporters, claiming they voted for Gardner and they “had her back.” These individuals were not identified.
Gardner did not address the mayor’s comments directly, saying she’s focused on getting justice for Janae Edmondson and her family.
“…this young lady’s life is affected by the criminal justice system right now, and we want to hold this individual accountable. But I’m not going to point blame to anybody,” she said. “The buck stops with my office, and we did our job. And, as I said, could we do more? We could, but did we not do nothing? That is not true.”
The circuit attorney said she was elected to do a job, and if the public doesn’t like the job she’s doing, they can vote her out.
“I’m going to focus on the people who elected me. The people have a process if they do not want me in this office, and that’s called an election,” she said. “And so I cannot speak for the people, and I will not address anything that the mayor said, because I think the people should speak for themselves.”
She also had no response to the Missouri Attorney General’s petition. Gardner said Bailey, who was unelected to the office of attorney general, is using the tragedy as a political football to suppress the will of the people.
“This is nothing more than voter suppression, which we’ve seen on the national level as well as in the state of Missouri,” she said.
About two hours after Gardner finished her news conference, Joel Currier, a spokesperson for the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, released two excerpts from Riley’s court appearances on September 8, 2020, and August 10, 2022. At no point in either transcript does the prosecutor request that Riley be kept in jail or that his bond be revoked.
“Defense counsel has indicated that he has had a conversation with the attorney who issued this case, and that a house arrest recommendation would not be opposed by the state,” the prosecutor said in the Sept. 8 excerpt. “I see no reason that that could be out of the realm of possibility, either. It doesn’t look like this defendant has any kind of criminal history.”
Two years later, a different prosecutor from the Circuit Attorney’s Office agreed in court to release Riley on a recognizance bond while awaiting trial.
“Your Honor, I believe we actually reached a consent with defense to have the defendant released on his own recognizance, with the added conditions of GPS and house arrest,” the prosecutor said at the time. If you’re not inclined to accept that deal, we can enter a full argument on the hearing, your Honor.”
Both excerpts are available to read below: