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Gardner admits wrongdoing in ethics investigation

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 6:55 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2022 at 11:13 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV/AP) – St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner admitted to wrongdoing during a disciplinary hearing Monday by stating their process came up short while handling the criminal case against former Gov. Eric Grietens.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner appeared before the Missouri Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which oversees attorney’s bar licenses, at 9 a.m. in a St. Louis County courthouse for claims of prosecutorial misconduct. She was accused in a 73-page report of failing to disclose evidence to Greitens’ lawyers, misrepresenting evidence, and other ethical violations. Gardner hired William Tisaby as a private investigator for the case. Tisaby, who has since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for tampering with evidence in the case, interviewed a woman at the center of the Greitens case. Greitens was accused of knowingly taking a photograph of a woman in a “state of full or partial nudity without the knowledge and consent”.

Both sides accepted to reprimand, which is a formal acknowledgment that will go on Gardner’s license forever. It is more serious than an admonishment but far less serious than a suspension or revoking of her license. After Gardner’s lawyer told the panel she accepted the stipulation, Gardner answered questions. In her answers, Gardner stated the video in question did not properly work when her office first went to watch it, which is why she said it was not included in the discovery.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner faced a disciplinary hearing in a St. Louis County...
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner faced a disciplinary hearing in a St. Louis County courthouse Monday, April 11, 2022.(Pool)

She told the panel she did not include it because she couldn’t disclose something that didn’t work. Gardner then said her office took another look at the video to see if it could be played. She stated nothing prompted them to watch it again and that it was something they do “all the time.”

“It ended up working and we did our diligence to turn it over immediately,” she told the panel.

Gardner stressed to the panel the case was compressed and things were happening very fast. She said there was a scheduled order that outlined a time for things to be turned over, but there were hearings “every day” and the fast-paced schedule is why the notes were not turned over. Gardner called it a “mistake on my part.”

The ethics panels, comprised of two lawyers and a layperson, will have 30 days to decide whether they accept the agreement and then it will still be up to the Missouri Supreme Court to decide if Gardner will be disciplined with a reprimand as recommended.

LEGAL EXPERTS WEIGH IN

Saint Louis University law professor Anders Walker says it’s a case that could have an impact on the criminal justice system in St. Louis.

“This could be a very serious matter if the CA tried to remove a sitting governor, then we are not talking about a criminal matter,” Walker said. “We are talking about undermining the criminal process and I cannot think of anything more serious than that.”

But Gardner has denied all of the allegations against her saying it was “another attempt by her political enemies, largely from outside St. Louis, to remove her and thwart the systemic reforms she champions.”

“If minor mistakes were made,” her filing says, “They were not deliberate. They did not undermine justice and they did not deny the defendant a fair trial.”

Walker added, “Everyone can make mistakes, however, a prosecutor must disclose information that could help a defendant. If they fail to disclose that, that could be grounds for serious disciplinary action.”

“That’s possible anything is possible, they might meet in the middle with a reprimand,” Walker said.

Witnesses named in the original charging document told News 4—they couldn’t comment. Walker said it’s certainly politically charged but Gardner’s supporters claimed she’s being unfairly targeted. Greitens is now using the investigation as part of his campaign for the US Senate.

“This case has gone all over the place, it’s a melodrama,” Walker said.

Other attorneys who have notably been disciplined including Mark McCloskey—who pleaded guilty to waving a gun at protestors received probation on his license. Former Assistant Circuit Attorney Bliss Worrell lost her license in 2016 after admitting in federal court to filing false charges on a man who had been assaulted by police.

“There are few cases where prosecutors have been disciplined and even fewer that have lost their law license,” Walker said.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Missouri Supreme Court to decide if Gardner should be punished and the severity of the punishment.