JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Attorney General filed a petition Thursday in an effort to remove the Iron County Sheriff Jeffrey Burkett from office.
Burkett and two other Iron County deputies were arrested in March and accused of helping a man in a parental kidnapping plot.
Charging documents say that in February, a 62-year-old man named Donald Gaston sought to take his daughter after an argument with the child’s mother. Prosecutors say Burkett lied to a 911 dispatcher to report that the mother had kidnapped the girl, and falsely accused the woman of putting the child in danger. Ultimately, the girl remained with her mother.
Bailey’s petition alleges that Burkett is unfit to hold office after allegedly helping Gaston in a plot to kidnap the child.
“As Attorney General, I will always work to hold accountable those who refuse to do their job as required by Missouri statute,” said Attorney General Bailey. “Missourians have seen firsthand what happens when elected officials fail to enforce the law, and my office is not going to stand by and let it happen again. To that end, I am moving for the removal of the Iron County Sheriff, and I demand that he resign effective immediately.”
The quo warranto contends that Burkett “knowingly or willfully failed and refused to perform official acts and duties with respect to the execution or enforcement of criminal laws” and “engaged in willful acts of misconduct, malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance in office.”
Burkett faces the following criminal charges in the case:
- Participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities
- Tampering with a victim
- Attempted kidnapping (third-degree)
- Stalking (first-degree)
- Stalking (second-degree)
- Unlawful obtaining of criminal history information
- Unlawful disclosure of criminal history information
- Misuse of emergency telephone services
- One count of making a false report
Bailey argues that Burkett abused his powers and authority by encouraging other officers to make illegal arrests and detentions in connection with this case.
Burkett was elected as the Iron County Sheriff in 2020 and previously worked as a deputy. Last year, he was hospitalized for nearly four months with COVID-19, including spending time on a ventilator, according to the department’s Facebook page. While he was hospitalized, county officials sought to remove him from office but eventually backed off.
Gabe Crocker, who represents Burkett, previously told FOX 2 the charges are politically motivated, adding, “these allegations involve an investigation conducted by the Iron County sheriff’s office. Crocker encourages all Iron County residents to reserve judgement until they have heard both sides.”
As for the quo warranto lawsuit, it’s the second one that Bailey has attempted this year. He also filed one in an effort to remove former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner from office before she resigned last month.