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Gardner admits to rule violations in handling of Greitens case, could face reprimand

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner sits at a wooden table before a microphone in a disciplinary hearing.
T.L. Witt
Pool photo
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner attends her disciplinary hearing at the St. Louis County Courthouse on Monday.

Updated at 2:45 p.m., April 11, with comments from attorneys on both sides

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has admitted she violated Missouri's rules of professional conduct for attorneys in her handling of the 2018 prosecution of then-Gov. Eric Greitens.

In a document filed with the state’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel on Monday, Gardner agreed with the state that she had not followed rules around access to evidence, complying with discovery requests and requirements to be candid with the court. The accusations relate to several documents used in the prosecution of Greitens for invasion of privacy, a case that was later dropped.

Gardner told a three-person panel convened to hear the case that her office did have a process in place to make sure that all evidence was turned over to the governor’s defense team in a timely fashion.

“But of course this was a very compressed discovery schedule, and we had hearings every day,” she said. “Yes we had a process, but unfortunately that process came up short.”

While Gardner admitted that she herself had fallen short in the Greitens case, she said her failings should not reflect on the other attorneys in her office. The main people who handled the case — Robert Steele and Robert Dierker — no longer work for the circuit attorney.

The agreed-upon document asks the disciplinary hearing panel to issue a reprimand, the lowest level of formal discipline for an attorney in the state. The panel will issue its recommendation within 30 days, and the Missouri Supreme Court will make the final decision.

Alan Pratzel, the state’s chief disciplinary counsel, said his office believed the reprimand would fulfill “the primary goal of the attorney discipline system, not to punish the respondent attorney, but to take whatever action is appropriate to protect the public and the integrity of the bar.”

The disciplinary office had originally accused Gardner of 18 separate instances of ethical breaches, with multiple rules violated in each instance. Attorneys said the agreed-upon document was the product of “extensive discussions.”

“A good settlement of a case leaves no one happy, but everyone recognizing that they benefited from it,” said Gardner’s attorney, Michael Downey, in a news conference after the hearing. “We’re not thrilled with the outcome, but at the same time, we recognize that it’s a fair outcome based upon the facts and what we were able to accomplish.”

Downey represented Gardner without pay, and said he was honored to be asked.

Due to security and space concerns, the panel convened in a courtroom in St. Louis County. More than two dozen of Gardner’s supporters, including Adolphus Pruitt, president of the city’s branch of the NAACP, and Karla May, a state senator and chair of the city’s Democratic Central Committee, attended the hearing.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.