ST. LOUIS (CN) — A couple who drew national headlines after waving guns at hundreds of civil rights protesters in front of their St. Louis home were indicted Tuesday afternoon by a city grand jury.
Mark McCloskey, 63, and Patricia McCloskey, 61, were each indicted for unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and tampering with a weapon, a misdemeanor, the couple’s attorney Al Watkins confirmed.
The McCloskeys, both attorneys, claim they felt their lives were in danger on June 28, as protesters who were on their way to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house advanced onto their private street. Cellphone video showed Mark McCloskey in front of the couple’s $1.15 million home with an AR-15 rifle and Patricia McCloskey with a semiautomatic handgun.
The couple claims they are justified through Missouri’s so-called castle doctrine, which allows the use of deadly force against intruders.
Conservatives have rallied behind the McCloskeys, who spoke at the Republican National Convention in August. Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, has vowed to pardon the couple if they are convicted of any charges.
Watkins believes it won’t be needed.
“The state of Missouri did not want to proceed with a preliminary hearing, where a witness would actually have to take the stand, where there would be a judge and there would be a defense counsel and all the trappings of justice, and instead they decided to go behind closed doors with no judge and no witnesses and simply, you know, present to the grand jury,” Watkins said in an interview. “And even then…you could tell the grand jury was struggling with how the charges were brought.”
Watkins added that the tampering charge “makes no sense given the fact that the only tampering that has gone on here has been at the hands of the prosecuting or the circuit attorney by reassembling the gun to make it dischargeable.”
A spokeswoman for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner did need immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier on Tuesday, a city judge continued the case until next week. The indictment has made that hearing moot as the case will now be assigned to the circuit court and discovery will begin.
Watkins said he plans to begin his defense by getting Gardner disqualified.
“Motions will be filed, including motions to disqualify the circuit attorney by virtue of statements made by certain individuals associated with that office, by virtue of the actions taken to tamper, dismantle and reassemble the weapon to make it a dischargeable weapon, as well as statements that have been made by members of the circuit attorney’s office about counsel for the defense,” he said in the interview.
After a brief appearance in court Tuesday morning after the judge granted the continuance, the McCloskeys addressed the media in front of the city courthouse.
“Every single human being that was in front of my house was a criminal trespasser,” Mark McCloskey said, according to the Associated Press. “They broke down our gate. They trespassed on our property. Not a single one of those people is now charged with anything. We’re charged with felonies that could cost us four years of our lives and our law licenses.”
Gardner, a Democrat, charged the couple with felony unlawful use of a weapon. She said at the time the display of guns risked bloodshed at what she called an otherwise peaceful protest.
Nine people involved in the protest were charged with misdemeanor trespassing, but the city counselor’s office later dropped the charges. That office handles lesser crimes and is not affiliated with the circuit attorney’s office, the AP reported.
Watkins said his clients had a right to defend their property.
“My clients hold very strong beliefs,” the attorney said. “They are learned legal counsel, they’re not brand new. They’re not Skippy the punk. They are, each of them, with over 30 years of practicing law under their belts. They are not people with criminal records or criminal histories or histories of drug abuse or other law unlawful behavior.”
“These are individuals whose actions are completely consistent with and contemplated by longstanding Missouri law – the castle doctrine, the right to stand and protect your wife, your husband, your children, your home, utilizing force, including deadly force,” he added. “That is lawful. That is longstanding law. And it is law, which is greatly respected in the heartland of America, especially in Missouri. Apparently, everywhere in Missouri, except in the city of St. Louis.”