The group denounced political interference in the case after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) filed an amicus brief asking for the charges to be dismissed. The attorney general in Missouri has no jurisdiction in criminal cases, and no motion to dismiss has been filed, but Schmitt has criticized Gardner and her handling of the case.
Schmitt has been joined by President Trump and other Missouri Republicans in lambasting Gardner since she announced she would investigate lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey for pointing guns at marchers outside their home on June 28. She filed felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon against both McCloskeys on Monday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that the president thought the charges against the McCloskeys were “absolutely absurd” and “an extreme abuse of power by the prosecutor.”
On Wednesday, a group of 67 state and federal prosecutors, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, former Los Angeles district attorney Gil Garcetti, and current prosecutors in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas and elsewhere issued a joint statement condemning the “shameful, aggressive and blatantly political attacks on Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.”
Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for eastern Michigan, told The Washington Post, “President Trump needs to realize he’s no longer a loudmouth at the country club. He’s the president. He’s using a bully pulpit to have influence on public opinion, and it’s improper influence that can put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice.”
“The political and personal attacks by state and federal politicians against Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner,” said Channing Phillips, the former U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., “threaten the ability of every prosecutor in this country to do the job they were elected to do.”
During the course of civil rights protests in St. Louis last month, a stream of marchers walked to the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson, located in a gated community of the city’s Central West End. Video obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows the marchers streaming through an open, undamaged gate and walking past the McCloskey mansion.
Almost immediately, Mark McCloskey can be seen shouting at the protesters and wielding a rifle, while organizers tell the marchers to keep moving. Mark McCloskey and his wife then moved from the terrace of the home to the lawn, videos show, with Patricia McCloskey aiming a pistol at the marchers, who do not appear intent on attacking the McCloskey home.
The videos caused Gardner (D), a reformist prosecutor facing a reelection primary next month, to say she would investigate whether the McCloskeys had committed a crime. St. Louis police executed a search warrant and seized the McCloskeys’ two guns, and then submitted an investigation to Gardner for possible charges.
Gardner’s actions outraged Missouri Republicans. Gov. Mike Parson, also facing reelection this year, called for Gardner to resign, and then said if the McCloskeys were convicted, he would pardon them. U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr demanding a civil rights investigation. Trump said any attempt by Gardner to prosecute would be “a disgrace.”
Gardner said she received death threats from across the country as the McCloskey case soared to national prominence. And when Gardner filed charges Monday, Schmitt immediately filed an “amicus,” or “friend of the court,” brief supporting a potential motion to dismiss charges. Judges in Missouri criminal cases may accept or deny amicus briefs from outside parties and are not required to abide by the opinions submitted.
“It’s disheartening to see politicians,” said Wesley Bell, the prosecutor of neighboring St. Louis County, “some of whom have no law enforcement experience, interfering in cases and trying to engineer outcomes.” Bell, elected in 2018 as a reformist, said despite the politics of elections, “a prosecutor should endeavor to be as apolitical as possible. To attack just a charging decision, after a full investigation, or try to encourage an outcome prior to it getting to a jury, is to me indefensible and completely against the idea of our Constitution and our justice system.”
Bell is one of the 67 prosecutors who signed the letter in defense of Gardner, organized by Fair and Just Prosecution. “We should all be concerned when enforcing the law,” the prosecutors wrote, “including conducting a local investigation and bringing charges consistent with the law — even if at odds with the political agenda of some — becomes the basis for personal and vicious attacks against the elected local prosecutor.”
Among the signers of the letter are San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Boston District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. In the Washington area, the prosecutors of Fairfax, Prince George’s, Arlington and Loudoun counties and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine also signed the letter.