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Kim Gardner Fires Back At Parson, Calls State Intervention A ‘Dangerous Proposition’

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, right, converses with Bush before a Wednesday press conference. Gardner won a landslide victory over fellow Democrat Mary Pat Carl, even as Republicans like Gov. Mike Parson and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley were harshly criticizing her for charging Mark and Patricia McCloskey for unlawful use of a weapon.
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, right, converses with Cori Bush, the Democratic nominee for Missouri's 1st Congressional District, before a press conference last week.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner cruised to victory in the city’s Democratic primary last week. Although opponents spent heavily to take her down, she won 61% of the vote.

Less than a week later, Gov. Mike Parson proposed legislation that would give Attorney General Eric Schmitt “concurrent jurisdiction.” This would allow the Republican attorney general to step in and take over the prosecution of certain high-level felonies in St. Louis — cases handled everywhere else in the state by local prosecutors.

At a press conference Monday, Parson defended the move. “This has nothing to do with the prosecutor, taking her out of the role of being prosecutor. This is about violent criminals on the streets of St. Louis that cases haven’t been filed on,” Parson said.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Gardner said Schmitt and Parson continue to lead with “attacks and misinformation.”

“We know that the governor [had] a personal interest to attack on an individual case that we’re dealing with,” she said.

Asked whether she was referring tothe case against Mark and Patricia McCloskey — who were charged with unlawful use of a weapon in July — Gardner responded, “Yes.”

Last month, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley urged Attorney General William Barr to launch a federal civil rights investigation into Gardner, accusing her of abusing her power. President Donald Trump has also defended the McCloskeys.

They have “basically decided to inject themselves into the personal discretion of a prosecutor to actually investigate any criminal activity in their jurisdiction,” Gardner said. “That is the conversation that they started, and it's actually a dangerous proposition we’re going into in the state of Missouri, when you have these individuals — the powerful few — who want to inject themselves into the prosecutorial discretion.”

Parson has also criticized Gardner for not filing enough murder charges in St. Louis. He said she’s only charged 33 people with murder, while there have been 162 killings in the city in 2020.

“Most violent crime in the city of St. Louis does not even come to our office,” she said, citing a dearth of evidence and witness participation stemming from the community’s lack of trust in law enforcement.

“Most of these violent crimes have been unsolved for decades, even before I took office,” she said. “So how do we address that? We don’t address it by this divide. … We have to stop this false narrative that somehow someone who’s never been in the city of St. Louis has the key to solving these cases.”

During the conversation, Gardner also discussed her views on Operation LeGend, which will bring another 50 federal law enforcement agents to the city to fight violent crime.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.