The banner headline at the top of our March 14 edition read, “Under attack, Kim Gardner fights back.” That was just the most succinct statement of a story Rebecca Rivas already had been reporting for more than a month. It sounds like the kind of story derided as a “conspiracy theory,” and maybe that’s why it took other media so long to take it up. The New York Times did a version of Rivas’ evolving story exactly three months later, on June 14, and Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger put his spin on it a week later than that on June 21, both adding new evidence and momentum to the story.
Rivas has been reporting on the St. Louis city counselor, Julian Bush, who is appointed by the mayor, working with middle management in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and a circuit judge, Mike Mullens, to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor. They wanted (and got) a special prosecutor to investigate the St. Louis circuit attorney, Kimberly M. Gardner, the first African American elected to that position, in her handling of an investigation. Although the city’s Public Safety leadership, appointed by the mayor, is led by two black men, all of the people acting against Gardner in this story are white. The circuit judges and especially city police have their own grievances and grudges with Gardner, but the aggrieved party that really gets its way in this story is the defense team for Eric Greitens, then the Republican Missouri governor investigated by Gardner and charged with felony invasion of privacy. (That and another felony charge were later dropped.)
But apparently Greitens and his attorneys never got over anger that she proceeded with felony charges – based on testimony by the alleged victim that she provided to Gardner and a state legislature task force – which helped lead to Greitens stepping down from office. The charge that Greitens’ attorneys and Bush, the city counselor, took to the police and then to Judge Mullens concerns the Greitens investigation. Gardner conducted her own investigation, she said, when the police declined to investigate Greitens. She contracted with a former FBI agent named William Tisaby (also a black man). The special prosecutor produced a grand jury indictment of Tisaby for perjury and tampering with evidence. These charges are based on Tisaby testifying – not in open court – but in a deposition to Greitens’ lawyers, and his testimony was not in any way material to the facts in the case, which did not result in a conviction anyway. To seal this sordid little legal circle, the special prosecutor appointed by the judge, Gerard Carmody, went to high school with and remains friends with one of Greitens’ most powerful attorneys, Ed Dowd.
If this sounds like an attempt to damage a disruptive black prosecutor on a flimsy legal pretense (alleged perjury by a contract investigator in a deposition on immaterial testimony in a case that never went to trial), that’s just what Gardner said that Greitens’ attorneys had threatened to do if she persisted with her investigation of Greitens. If her allegations turn up reasonable cause, those alleged actions could be charged as Tampering with a Judicial Officer. The problem is, the police would not investigate this charge either, and her attempt to use her own authority to compel the appointment of a special prosecutor is stalled in the courts. So: a (black) investigator for the (black) circuit attorney allegedly gives inconsistent testimony in an immaterial deposition, and the hammer of justice comes down from police, a city counselor, a judge, and a private defense attorney playing special prosecutor who are all white. That same black circuit attorney’s career allegedly gets threatened by white defense attorneys – and subsequent events provide some plausible evidence that they are trying to make good on such a threat – and no one lifts an investigative finger. To put the final touch on all of this, Mullen put a gag order on the parties involved with Carmody’s investigation of Gardner’s office, so she has been muted from defending herself.
When we started to unravel this story in February, leading to the March story about Gardner “fighting back,” she was fighting back with the support of the NAACP and several black Baptist churches. The New York Times report and Messenger’s column three months later were clearly sympathetic to Gardner and substantially follow the accounting of events first put together by Rivas. They helped to propel the story forward – and now the community is becoming engaged again.
On Thursday, June 27, a coalition of criminal justice accountability advocates and engaged black clergy will issue a set of demands on Gardner’s behalf at St. Louis City Hall. They will call for Mayor Lyda Krewson to terminate Bush’s tenure as city counselor, which we agree she should do (and, if not, we should consider this another reason to terminate Krewson’s tenure as mayor). They will call for the city to fund Gardner’s defense, as it has funded the defense of circuit attorneys in the past, which we agree it should do (Bush currently is the major obstacle to that). They will call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Gardner’s allegations of Tampering with a Judicial Officer, which we agree the courts should do. And they will call for Judge Mullens to lift the gag order on the Carmody special prosecution, which we agree he should do. And we agree with these justice advocates that we should remember Mullens, as well as Krewson, the next time their names turn up on a ballot. Mullens may have been appointed, like the other judges in the circuit, but they have to stand for retention.
These are the things that justice compels in this case: fire Julian Bush, fund Gardner’s defense, appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Tampering with a Judicial Officer, and lift the gag order.