James Clark and Edward L. Dowd Jr.

James Clark of Better Family Life accepts a check from Edward L. Dowd Jr., president of the private non-profit St. Louis Crime Commission, to support violence de-escalation efforts on Monday, July 8.

Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

The St. Louis Crime Commission sounds like a government body but is not; it’s a private non-profit organization. Its president is Edward L. Dowd Jr., a litigator and partner at Dowd Bennett, as well as a member of a local legal dynasty. Dowd appeared in positive news coverage on Monday, July 8, handing the non-profit’s $200,000 donation to Better Family Life for its commendable work, frequently reported and discussed in these pages, preventing and deescalating violence.

“So many people are doing so much to help save lives in St. Louis,” Dowd stated in his media opportunity. “The citizens of St. Louis, the Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney, the Mayor, our Chief of Police and the Crime Commission working with citizens like James Clark and organizations like Better Family Life, the Regional Business Council and Civic Progress are making real progress.” Notably absent from the city’s professional crime-fighting team that Dowd credited with saving lives in St. Louis is Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner. It is easy to see why. And it explains why some of attorney Dowd’s recent actions are more likely to spur unrest in St. Louis than prevent violence or save lives.

Dowd was part of then-governor Eric Greitens’ high-powered legal defense team when Gardner charged Greitens with felonious invasion of privacy; a women claimed Greitens took a semi-nude photo of her without her consent and then transferred it in a way that it could be accessed by a computer. After Gardner dropped her charges, Greitens’ defense team went into offense against the elected St. Louis prosecutor, pursuing perjury charges against an investigator, William Tisaby, hired by Gardner in the Greitens case when she found the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department unresponsive. However, the police were very responsive when Greitens’ legal team pursued Tisaby, as was City Counselor Julian Bush.

Despite the fact that Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, a former judge who officially oversees the police department, does not think charges should have been pursued regarding Tisaby’s testimony made in a deposition to defense lawyers, rather than before the bench in open court. However, Edwards’ former colleague, Circuit Judge Michael K. Mullen, appointed a special prosecutor to pursue Tisaby, and that special prosecutor was none other than Gerard Carmody, another private attorney, a principal at Carmody MacDonald and friend of Dowd’s dating back to high school. Carmody got a grand jury to indict Tisaby for multiple charges of perjury (in a deposition) and tampering with evidence, though Gardner’s attorney believes that Gardner was the real target of the investigation, which we believe to be undeniable.

When the grand jury was dismissed without indicting Gardner, the St. Louis region likely dodged a bullet. Jerryl Christmas, a private attorney helping to organize community support for Gardner, expressed shock that this legal circus against the city’s first black prosecutor – perpetrated by a group of unelected white attorneys, the police and a compliant mayor – is playing out as the clock ticks toward the five-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s police killing in Ferguson. We wish we could say we are shocked, but the white establishment’s estrangement from the black community makes anything possible here. We think it is good that the non-profit Dowd leads gave Better Family Life some money. But we think Dowd was wrong to exclude Gardner from the list of crime-fighting lifesavers in the city. And we believe that the brazen game he and others are playing with Gardner is a dangerous game that could cost us dearly if it continues.

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