Judge Dismisses St. Louis Prosecutor’s Claim of Racist Conspiracy

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks in St. Louis in January. (AP Photo/Jim Salter)

ST. LOUIS (CN) — In a tersely worded order, a federal judge on Wednesday tossed a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner asserting a conspiracy to force her out.

“Her 32-page complaint can best be described as a conglomeration of unrelated claims and conclusory statements supported by very few facts, which do not plead any recognizable cause of action,” U.S. District Judge John Ross, a Barack Obama appointee, wrote in his 19-page order dismissing the case.

Gardner, the city’s first Black circuit attorney, made national headlines when she filed the lawsuit in January, claiming the city’s police union and others engaged in a racist conspiracy to throw her out of office in retaliation for her attempts at criminal justice reform.

Gardner named as defendants the city of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, its business manager Jeff Roorda, and attorneys Gerard Carmody, Patrick Carmody and Ryann Carmody.

A spokeswoman and attorney for Gardner each did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Jonathan Bruntrager, of Bruntrager & Billings who represented the police union and Roorda, said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling.

“The dismissal took a lot longer than we expected to come through, but obviously with Covid we understand the delay,” Bruntrager said in an interview. “But ultimately it confirms what we’ve been saying from day one, is that she was unable to plead any facts here.”

City attorney J. Brent Dulle said he had no comment on the dismissal. Attorneys for the Carmody defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suit alleges violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 by the defendants, who are all white. The law is designed to prevent a racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law.

“It seemed to have been a political move on her part to file this kind of a lawsuit under this KKK statute that ultimately she couldn’t prove any facts of,” Bruntrager said.

Gardner has been a lightning rod of controversy since taking office in January 2017. Soon after being sworn in, she announced she would cease prosecutions of low-level marijuana crimes. In 2018, she developed an “exclusion list” of more than two dozen police officers who were barred from serving as primary witnesses in criminal cases over what Gardner called credibility concerns.

The exclusion list angered many in the law enforcement community, including Roorda, who called Gardner the worst prosecutor in the country the day after her lawsuit was filed.

Gardner’s troubles grew when she hired William Don Tisaby, a former FBI agent, rather than working with police to investigate claims that former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens took a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair. Greitens, a Republican, was charged with felony invasion of privacy, which was eventually dropped. But the charged forced him to resign in June 2018.

Greitens’ attorneys, however, accused Tisaby of lying during a deposition. Gerard Carmody, who was appointed as a special prosecutor, indicted Tisaby last June for perjury in a case that is still pending.

The indictment raised concerns about Gardner’s role in Tisaby’s alleged perjury. It claimed she failed to correct his inaccuracies or report them and that she made incorrect statements to defense lawyers and a judge.

Gardner claims she did nothing illegal or unethical. Her lawsuit said her efforts to raise conflict of interest concerns about Gerard Carmody’s appointment as special prosecutor were ignored. She says he went to school with Greitens and the two served in the same law practice.

But Ross found no evidence of a conspiracy in Wednesday’s ruling.

“Gardner presents no specific material facts, circumstantial or otherwise, to show that defendants acted with each other for the purpose of depriving her – or anyone else – of a constitutional right to equal protection,” the judge wrote. “Her complaint is nothing more than a compilation of personal slights – none of which rise to a legal cause of action.”

Ross also tossed counts claiming unreasonable search and seizure and abuse of power against the Carmody defendants and the city of St. Louis.

“Gardner alleges the city and the Carmodys instituted a baseless criminal investigation of her to harass and intimidate her and obstruct her agenda,” he wrote. “This court has previously found these alleged ends are neither unlawful nor collateral.”

Despite the controversy, Gardner, a Democrat, won more the 60% of the vote in the primary election in August. She is virtually guaranteed to beat her Republican challenger in November due to the city’s liberal voting base.

On Saturday, Gardner added another 15 officers to her infamous exclusion list. No reason was given for their inclusion and the list has not been released publicly.

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