After grand jury dismissal, Gardner defends role

DOWNTOWN – Free of an immediate threat of being indicted, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner says it’s time to get back to the work of handling the 10,000 criminal cases her office deals with each year. 

“We have to stop spending our time and limited resources looking at one case as its only measure of competence and success,” Gardner said Thursday at a news conference outside her office on the fourth floor of the Carnahan Courthouse downtown. 

Behind Gardner as she spoke were some of her allies –African-American elected officials, clergy members, representatives of organizations and others.

For eight months, a special prosecutor examined searchable files and documents in Gardner’s office to determine whether it ran afoul of the law in charges issued against then-Gov. Eric Greitens. A grand jury expired without issuing an indictment against Gardner. 

The grand jury had indicted William Tisaby, an investigator hired by Gardner, accusing him of lying during a deposition in the criminal case that was a factor in Greitens’ decision to resign last year. Gardner’s office charged Greitens with invasion of privacy for allegedly taking an unauthorized, compromising photo of a woman during a 2015 affair. The charge was later dropped.

The indictment of Tisaby raised concerns about Gardner’s complicity, but those worries seemed to dissipate with that expired grand jury. Gardner, allowed to speak on the issue for the first time since there was a gag order surrounding the case, maintained she did nothing wrong. 

“I steadfastly maintain that all of my actions are both legal and ethical pertaining to my decision to charge the former governor,” Gardner said. 

Gardner said the true measure of a circuit attorney’s office office wasn’t one case, but rather how much it tried to bring in reform measures such as finding alternatives to jail for minor offenders and providing mental health care for addicts. 

“I will not stop working for the people of St. Louis, to make our neighborhoods safer,” Gardner said. “I appreciate the prayers, the hundreds of kind messages, the positive thoughts that I received since taking office.”

Those who spoke in support of Gardner at the news conference included state Rep. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis, chairman of the Black Caucus for the Missouri House and Senate.

Roberts emphasized that a grand jury protected against oppression and unfounded prosecution.

“I know that Kimberly Gardner is the right person to serve our city,” he said.

Adolphus M. Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP, said the grand jury had done its job and was now gone.

“We’ve got a prosecutor that’s doing a wonderful job,” he said. 

Pruitt said that for years the city had not had a prosecutor who would act fairly and justly.  

“This city elected a prosecutor who happened to be female and happened to be black,” he said. “And it resonated throughout the community that she would be fair and just.” 

Gardner and others have gone through turmoil in the last several months, said Pruitt, who criticized the media for its coverage.

“Not all of it has been, we feel as a community, has been fair and balanced,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said he planned to call all the news directors and station managers around the city and ask them to cover a more positive side of Gardner. 

Gardner, meanwhile, said she’d keep doing what she did before.

“I’m going to say it time and time again. I know that you guys are not going to report it,” she said. “We’re going to hold people accountable, even when it’s not popular to the media. We treat this case like any other case. I’m going to stand on we did nothing wrong.”

Jim Merkel

Author: Jim Merkel

Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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