ST. LOUIS (CN) – A police union spokesman on Tuesday called St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner the worst prosecutor in the country, a day after she accused the union and city of a racist conspiracy to force her out.
Jeff Roorda, the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, made the statement during a press conference addressing a federal lawsuit Gardner filed Monday against the city, the union, Roorda, and attorneys Gerard Carmody, Patrick Carmody and Ryann Carmody. She claims the defendants conspired to discredit her because she is the city’s first black female prosecutor who ran on a platform of criminal justice reform.
“We’re not criticizing her because she’s the first,” Roorda told reporters. “We’re criticizing her because she’s the worst, the worst prosecutor in the United States. Her brand of criminal justice reform is not criminal justice reform, it’s amnesty for criminals, the most violent criminals in America.”
Roorda began the presser by reading a scathing written statement that questioned Gardner’s conduct. The Carmody defendants were picked by a judge to conduct a special investigation into her office’s handling of the high-profile criminal case against disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens which resulted in tampering and perjury charges against Gardner’s hand-picked investigator, William Don Tisaby.
One of Gardner’s top aides was deposed in that case Monday, the same day Gardner filed her lawsuit. Gardner is scheduled to be deposed on Wednesday.
“Gardner doesn’t want to answer for her conduct,” Roorda said. “That’s what this lawsuit is about. The walls are closing in on this corrupt official and she is doing what every corrupt official does. She’s pushing back on those walls. Make no mistake, this is the last act of a desperate woman who simply wants to silence her critics.”
A spokeswoman for Gardner did not immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment on Roorda’s statements.
Gardner’s lawsuit was just as scathing towards Roorda and the rest of the defendants.
The suit alleges violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 against the defendants, who are all white. The Act 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.
“This is about the will of the people being silenced by a concerted effort to stop reform in the city of St. Louis, and this has to be addressed,” Gardner said in an interview with the Associated Press. “This is saying, ‘No more are we going to let the powerful few who want to hold onto the status quo prevent an elected prosecutor from doing her job.”‘
Gardner, a Democrat, became the city’s first African American circuit attorney when she was elected in 2016.
Soon after taking office, 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 mentioned it again during his press conference Tuesday.
“She indiscriminately puts people on this exclusion list and tries to ruin their reputation and career and she’s got cops frightened of this retaliation,” he said. “They don’t think she has their back. They think she has criminals’ backs and they’re tired of it.”
Gardner’s troubles grew when she hired Tisaby, a former FBI agent, rather than working with police to investigate claims that 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. She has not been indicted but the investigation into her actions is ongoing.
“Her handpicked investigator was charged with perjury and tampering with evidence and as you read that indictment, Kim Gardner is culpable in every count in that indictment,” Roorda told reporters. “Why she hasn’t been charged is amazing to me and that’s all we’re doing. Were calling for her to answer for those deeds.”
Gardner’s 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.
The lawsuit says St. Louis has a “long history of racial inequality and prejudice in its criminal justice system generally, and within its police force particularly.”
Gardner pointed to a watchdog group’s report last year that identified several St. Louis officers accused of posting racist, violent or prejudiced messages on Facebook. The Plain View Project’s report highlighted some of those posts, including one in 2014 showing a black officer standing with two black demonstrators, calling the officer “Captain ‘Hug a Thug'” and “a disgrace to the uniform.” Another post in 2018 read: “If the Confederate flag is racist, then so is Black History Month.”
Two veteran officers were fired after the posts were made public.
But Gardner’s lawsuit says the police union “has gone out of its way to support white officers accused of perpetrating acts of violence and excessive force against African American citizens.”
She says Roorda supported Darren Wilson, the white officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014 in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. That shooting set off months of often violent protests. Wilson resigned but was not charged with a crime.
The lawsuit also mentions an incident in which a black undercover officer was allegedly attacked by four white colleagues who mistook him for a protester during a 2017 demonstration in downtown St. Louis after a white officer was acquitted of killing a black suspect. Gardner says in the suit that the police union provided lawyers after the officers were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Earlier on Tuesday, prosecutors from across the country, including from the cities of Baltimore, Orlando and Boston, issued statements and rallied in support of Gardner.
Roorda said Gardner’s support locally is slight.
“She ran on a platform that some people weren’t getting justice,” Roorda said. “Now nobody’s getting justice. She’s turning criminals loose. She’s maliciously prosecuting police officers who have been proven to be innocent and that’s not what she was elected for.”
He continued, “She’s really alienated a lot of folks in politics and I don’t see anybody sticking up for her other than prosecutors in far away big cities who are conducting themselves the same way she does.”