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Missouri attorney general gives Kim Gardner an ultimatum: Resign or face removal from office

Andrew Bailey, newly appointed Missouri Attorney General, speaks to the media on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, after being sworn in as the state’s 44th attorney general at the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Andrew Bailey, photographed in January, has threatened to begin a rarely used process to remove St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner from office.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has given St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner an ultimatum — resign or he will attempt to force her out.

“As Attorney General, I want to protect the people of St. Louis, and that includes protecting victims of crime and finding justice for them,” Bailey said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. “Instead of protecting victims, Circuit Attorney Gardner is creating them. My office will do everything in its power to restore order, and eliminate the chaos in St. Louis caused by Kim Gardner’s neglect of her office.”

Editor's note: On Thursday afternoon, Bailey followed through with his threat to launch an effort to remove Gardner.

It was the latest fallout from missteps by Gardner’s office that led to events culminating in 17-year-old Janae Edmonson of Tennessee losing her legs in a car crash over the weekend.

If Gardner does not leave office by noon Thursday, Bailey said, he will file a quo warranto action (“by what authority” in Latin. The law gives the attorney general the authority to act “in case any person shall usurp, intrude into or unlawfully hold or execute any office.” A judge would be assigned to the case, and Bailey would argue that Gardner has failed to do her job and is therefore holding office illegally. Gardner would have the opportunity to defend herself, and the judge would ultimately determine after holding hearings if she should be forced to vacate the office.

Like any court ruling, it could be appealed.

Daniel Riley, 21, was charged Jan. 17 in a 2020 armed robbery. Circuit Judge David Roither released him on his own recognizance but required GPS monitoring for house arrest. On Saturday, Riley sped through a stop sign downtown and collided with another car, police said. Edmondson, who was in town for a volleyball tournament and was walking back to her hotel with her family, was pinned between two of the cars and later had to have both legs amputated.

Court records show that Riley had violated conditions of his bond multiple times before the crash, but Gardner’s office never filed a motion to revoke the bond and send him to jail.

In a statement, Gardner did not address Bailey’s ultimatum. Instead, she presented a timeline of the case, which included revelations that she had previously asked for bond revocation in 2021, after she first filed charges that were later dropped and refiled when a judge denied a delay in the first trial. And she added that the state both times had opposed the personal recognizance and GPS monitoring conditions.

“Judges have the sole authority to determine the bond conditions of the defendant,” she wrote. “Bond violations and decisions do not rest solely on the shoulders of prosecutors. In this matter, prosecutors asked on several occasions for higher bonds, and our requests were denied.”

Riley faces multiple charges for Edmondson’s injuries and is currently held without bond. A hearing to review the conditions of his detention is set for Monday.

In 2009, then-Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, attempted to oust a prosecutor in Dent County, near Rolla. The prosecutor, Jessica Sparks, resigned before the case proceeded. Activists in 2015 attempted to use a different type of quo warranto to force then-St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch from office over his handling of the Darren Wilson grand jury. A judge rejected that attempt.

Bailey’s ultimatum came the same day that Mayor Tishaura Jones, Board of Aldermen President Megan Green and other progressive lawmakers in the city said they believed residents had lost trust and faith in Gardner’s office.

The circuit attorney “really needs to do some soul-searching on whether or not she wants to continue as circuit attorney,” Jones said Wednesday. She also called out Gardner for a “disturbing” lack of accountability.

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

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