Civil Rights

Top St. Louis prosecutor files suit alleging racially motivated conspiracy to obstruct her equal-justice efforts

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St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging the city and the police union are engaged in a racially motivated conspiracy to deny civil rights by obstructing her efforts to ensure equal justice under the law.

Gardner is among several prosecutors elected on promises to investigate police violence and reform get-tough criminal justice policies. Her lawsuit is based on the civil rights conspiracy statute passed as part of the Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871, report the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press.

Gardner is the first African American to be elected as chief prosecutor for St. Louis.

Gardner’s lawsuit stems from the invasion-of-privacy indictment against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was accused of taking a partially nude photo of his former mistress without her knowledge and consent. The charge was dropped in May 2018 and Greitens resigned a month later.

The charge was dropped after a judge ruled that Gardner could be called as a witness in the case against Greitens because she was present during an interview of the accuser by a case investigator. Greitens claimed that the investigator committed perjury when he didn’t take notes during the interview.

Police successfully sought a special prosecutor to investigate the perjury allegation. The investigator was indicted for alleged perjury based on his assertion about the notes and other statements made in a March 2018 deposition. The indictment said Gardner didn’t attempt to correct the investigator’s false statements during the deposition.

According to Gardner’s suit, “entrenched interests” mobilized to thwart Gardner’s reform efforts through a “broad campaign of collusive conduct.” The campaign included the appointment of the special prosecutor and the execution of a broad search warrant for Gardner’s files and electronic communications that went beyond the perjury case against the investigator, the suit says.

Gardner’s suit claims that the special prosecutor, Gerard Carmody, had supported her opponent in the election, and he is friends with a defense lawyer for Greitens. Both lawyers were former partners at Bryan Cave, the suit says.

The suit also says the police union threatened to reduce protection for city aldermen if they supported Gardner’s proposals to improve investigations of police misconduct.

Defendants in the case include the police union, the city of St. Louis and Carmody. The suit is being financed by Mothers Against Police Brutality.

“The true purpose of defendants’ conduct is not to charge Gardner with any crime—because they know that she has not committed any,” the suit says. “Rather, it is to thwart and impede her efforts to establish equal treatment under law for all St. Louis citizens at every turn; to remove her from the position to which she was duly elected—by any means necessary—and perhaps to show her successor what happens to circuit attorneys who dare to stand up for the equal rights of racial minorities in St. Louis.”

The police union released a statement saying the suit was “nothing more than a frantic ploy” to create a distraction from Gardner’s upcoming deposition testimony in the case against the police investigator.

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