An embattled George Soros-bankrolled prosecutor in St. Louis has officially resigned more than two weeks earlier than expected, amid a legal effort by Missouri’s attorney general to fire her for allegedly neglecting her duties.
Kim Gardner, a Democrat long mired in scandal and allegations of misconduct, announced earlier this month that she would resign as St. Louis circuit attorney, the city’s top prosecutor, effective June 1. On Tuesday, however, Gardner changed course and said she would be stepping down immediately.
“The circuit attorney has worked with St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and his office to ensure a comprehensive transition plan is in place to handle cases that prioritizes public safety. Effective immediately, Kimberly M. Gardner will end her service as the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney,” the Circuit Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Ms. Gardner has been committed to serving the people of the city of St. Louis and has done all she can to ensure a smooth transition. Further inquiries about ongoing cases can be directed to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”
Gardner is one of the first progressive prosecutors whom Soros, a liberal billionaire and Democrat mega-donor, bankrolled in 2016 and again for her re-election in 2020. She announced last month that she would seek a third term.
SOROS-BACKED PROSECUTOR MIRED IN SCANDAL RESIGNS FROM OFFICE
For years, Gardner’s office has faced criticism for mishandling cases and office dysfunction. The final straw for Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey came in February, when a teenage volleyball player visiting St. Louis with her team was struck by a car and lost both of her legs.
A man was charged in the crash with assault, armed criminal action and operating a motor vehicle without a valid license. He was out on bond awaiting trial for a separate armed robbery case despite violating the terms of his bond several dozen times.
Gardner argued that her office had tried to put the suspect back in jail but that a judge had denied their request. However, there are no court records of her office – which is responsible for monitoring compliance with bond conditions and revoking them when those terms are violated – asking for his bond to be revoked, according to local reports.
In the wake of the incident, Bailey filed a petition quo warranto, the legal mechanism under state statute that allows the attorney general to remove a prosecutor who neglects the job’s duties.
YET ANOTHER MISSOURI OFFICIAL MAY TAKE SOROS-BACKED PROSECUTOR TO COURT AS MORE ASSISTANTS RESIGN
Bailey, a Republican, claims that nearly 12,000 criminal cases have been dismissed by what he calls Gardner’s failures. He also says more than 9,000 cases have been thrown out as they had been about to go to trial, forcing judges to dismiss more than 2,000 cases due to what Bailey described as a failure to provide defendants with evidence and speedy trials.
Earlier this month, when Gardner initially announced her resignation, Bailey called on her to leave office immediately rather than wait until the end of the month, arguing each day “she remains puts the city of St. Louis in more danger.”
On Tuesday, Bailey expressed satisfaction with Gardner leaving office ahead of schedule, saying now the task is to restore law and order and his office will help handle the circuit attorney’s caseload until a new top prosecutor is named.
“The circuit attorney has finally heeded my call to resign after undermining the rule of law for years. Today, we begin the process of restoring public safety to the city of St. Louis,” Bailey said in a statement. “Upon the governor’s authority to appoint the Attorney General’s Office to assist, I am sending Deputy Attorney General, Judge Bill Corrigan, and his team today to immediately receive referrals from police and start the process of clearing the backlog of cases until the governor appoints the newest circuit attorney.”
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Gov. Mike Parson said in a news conference that his office is still working to pick a replacement for Gardner and hopes to tap someone by Friday. In the meantime, Parson has appointed General Counsel Evan Rodriguez as an interim St. Louis circuit attorney.
Gardner had refused to leave office for months, calling Bailey’s efforts a political “witch hunt” and a form of “voter suppression.” She also suggested that racism and sexism are behind some of the criticism against her.
A St. Louis judge had set a tentative trial date for Sept. 25 to hear arguments from both sides.
Meanwhile, Gardner’s office has been facing two proceedings for contempt of court after prosecutors failed to appear for multiple court dates. In one contempt case, a Missouri judge said Gardner had “complete indifference and a conscious disregard for the judicial process” and called her office a “rudderless ship of chaos.”
SOROS-BACKED PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE UNDER FIRE FOR MURDER CASE NO-SHOW AS TRIAL SET FOR POTENTIAL REMOVAL
It’s unclear if the contempt hearings will be dropped.
Several assistant prosecutors recently resigned from Gardner’s long understaffed office, which has been plagued by persistent personnel issues, creating low morale and a dysfunctional working environment.
Gardner’s tenure was riddled with allegations of misconduct and mishandled cases long before her latest legal issues. In one case, she was publicly reprimanded and fined by the Missouri Supreme Court.
More broadly, Gardner has been scrutinized for what critics have deemed soft-on-crime policies.
Gardner was St. Louis’ first Black chief prosecutor.
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