McCloskeys' chief prosecutor Kim Gardner removed from case for citing gun-toting couple in campaign fundraising emails
Gardner was initially accused of political bias by Republicans for prosecuting the gun-toting couple, and the prosecution was also denounced by President Donald Trump.
The chief prosecutor overseeing the case against the McCloskeys, the infamous couple who drew guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, has been struck off the case over a fundraising campaign linked to the incident. Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who filed felony gun charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey in June in Missouri, reportedly sent two fundraising emails referring to the case around the time she filed the charges. Gardner was initially accused of political bias by Republicans for prosecuting the gun-toting couple, and the prosecution was also denounced by President Donald Trump.
One of Gardner's campaign emails read: "Kim needs your help to fight back!" nothing that she was under "national scrutiny from our divisive President, the Republican establishment of Missouri, and the right-wing media, including Fox News." Gardner, who won re-election in November, is St Louis' first Black circuit attorney.
After the revelation of the fundraising emails, circuit judge Thomas Clark II dismissed Gardner from the case against Mark McCloskey on Thursday, December 10. Reports state that defense lawyers are aiming for Gardner to be removed from Patricia's case too. Judge Clark, in a statement, wrote: "In short, the Circuit Attorney's conduct raises the appearance that she initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes."
An attorney for the couple, Al Watkins, said: "Prosecutors are held to a higher standard legally, ethically and politically. When you swing and miss on all three you have to hit the lockers." Shortly after the judge's decision, Gardner's office also released a statement, saying it will "review the court order and determine our options." The statement also mentioned that the prosecutor or her office was not notified of the court's decision and that they learned of it from media reports.
A grand jury indicted the McCloskeys, who are both attorneys in their early 60s, in October on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and tampering with evidence. The couple, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and their next court appearance is scheduled in January.
Although Gardner had just filed the weapons charge in July, the grand jury added the evidence tampering charge to their case later. According to the indictment, a semi-automatic pistol was altered in a manner that "obstructed the prosecution of Patricia McCloskey" on the weapons charge.
The Governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, in a statement on July 19, had said that he was prepared to pardon the couple if criminal charges were brought against them. The Republican governor had said that the couple "had every right to protect themselves" and that he would ensure that they do not spend jail time for it. Parson's statement came weeks after the McCloskeys brandished an AR-15 and a handgun at protesters marching past their mansion, which was en route to Mayor Lyda Krewson's home.
The governor, while speaking to 97.1FM, said: "Right now, that's what I feel. You don't know until you hear all the facts. But right now, if this is all about going after them for doing a lawful act, then yeah, if that's scenario ever happened, I don't think they're going to spend any time in jail. A mob does not have the right to charge your property. They had every right to protect themselves."