ST. LOUIS – A judge has ruled for “indirect criminal contempt” proceedings for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner after she didn’t show to a scheduled contempt of court hearing Thursday.
Procedures for the “indirect contempt of court” hearing will be scheduled for Tuesday, May 30 at 9:30 a.m.
Judge Michael Noble said that this next hearing is planned after Gardner failed to show up for two contempt of court hearings. Her deputy, Chris Desilets, has also been requested for the indirect contempt of court.
Noble says, Gardner not showing to these hearing, proves sufficient evidence of disdain and disrespect for the judicial process that support a finding of indirect criminal contempt. He adds, “The Circuit Attorney’s Office appears to be a rudderless ship of chaos.”
Before the judge’s order, Desilets acknowledged he was handling around 100 active felony cases. Noble said “such a caseload [could] create countless irreconcilable conflicts” and Gardner didn’t attempt to make any “reasonable efforts to prevent the resulting chaos.”
Thursday was the second time in a week that Gardner faced the prospect of being held in contempt of court.
Noble requested that Gardner appear in his courtroom Thursday to “show cause” why she shouldn’t be held in contempt.
Thursday’s latest contempt of court hearing was the result of an assistant circuit attorney missing an April 10 court date over a shooting case. Our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report prosecutor Chris Desilets had another attorney pass a note to Judge Noble, explaining that Desilets had to miss court for a doctor’s appointment.
Noble asked Desilets to appear in court on April 24 with proof of the doctor’s appointment and to reschedule the start of trial. However, Desilets no-showed that hearing as well, prompting Noble to summon Gardner.
The shooting case is about an Oct. 2020 incident in which an 11-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet. Steven Vincent, 28, faces nine counts, including first-degree assault, for the shooting.
Also on April 24, a St. Louis Circuit Court judge declined to hold Gardner and another assistant circuit attorney in contempt after the prosecution was a no-show for the trial of Jonathon Jones, who was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the Sept. 6, 2021, shooting death of Brandon Scott near the Gateway Arch.
Assistant prosecutor Alex Polta had been assigned to the case. Polta told Judge Scott Millikan he provided a medical note to the circuit attorney on April 9, showing that he needed extended medical leave.
Milliken said holding someone in contempt is a very high bar to clear, and that the bar was not met by evidence, which suggests an office in chaos, rather than one intentionally missing trials.
However, Milliken said there is no excuse for the Gardner’s office to miss a court date, adding, “There is no more serious case than (first-degree murder).”
The judge rescheduled Scott’s trial for June 5, saying he will not dismiss the case for a speedy trial violation, because he believes the circuit attorney would simply refile the charge, like the office has done in the past. He said he was concerned that it would further delay justice.
Gardner did not appear herself for the April 24 contempt hearing. Her outside counsel, Michael Downey, appeared on her behalf. It’s unknown if she’ll appear in person at Thursday’s hearing.