In response to some Republicans’ recent attacks on St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, activists and clergy leaders held a press conference on the steps of the Carnahan Courthouse on February 26 calling on politicians to let Gardner do her job.
Gardner, who issued an indictment of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens for felony invasion of privacy on February 22, has faced criticism from Greitens’ political allies. In a statement, the Missouri Republican Party accused Gardner, a Democrat, of having purely political motives for the charges and of being funded by George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.
At the press conference, organized by fledgling activist group Concerned Citizens of St. Louis, speakers defended Gardner, the city’s first black circuit attorney.
“It is important to remember that no one is above the law,” activist Amir Brandy, who helped organize the event, said. “We are pleased to see our elected official do as she promised during her campaign. Let’s allow due process to take place.”
Greitens’ charges stem from allegations that he non-consensually photographed a woman he was having an affair with in 2015 while she was partially nude and blindfolded with her hands bound. Gardner issued the indictment in accordance with a recommendation from a grand jury.
Several speakers pointed out what they saw as the hypocrisy of conservatives calling the justice system unfair and biased in the Greitens case while protesters who objected to other legal matters – like the not-guilty verdict for Jason Stockley, St. Louis police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith – were dismissed.
Cassandra Gould, an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, said Greitens should be subject to the same system of justice as any other Missourian.
“It’s interesting how you just have to wait and let the system do what it has to when it involves a black person as a victim,” Gould said. “But then when it involves the highest elected official in this state, then justice is out of order. And so we believe that the governor is subject to the same justice system that all of the citizens are subject to, the same justice system that failed Mike Brown, the same justice system that failed Anthony Lamar Smith.”
Rev. Darryl Gray, a pastor and frequent face in Ferguson and at the protests that followed the Stockley verdict, said activists were standing behind Gardner not simply because she is a black woman, but because she is qualified to do her job. He also criticized the media for failing to cover the black community’s unity behind the circuit attorney.
“When things are burning, the cameras come out,” Gray said. “When there is looting, the cameras come out. When there’s violence, the cameras come out. But when the black community unites – the cameras, they don’t show.”
Gray said the event was not just about Gardner, but an indication that the protest movement in St. Louis is not over.
Attorney Jerryl Christmas said Gardner was right to indict Greitens and the legal process should be allowed to take its course.
“Even though I’m a defense attorney and we are adversaries, I respect the job that Kim is doing as circuit attorney for the City of St. Louis,” Christmas said.
Brandy said he did not yet want to share information about the mission and future of the Concerned Citizens of St. Louis group, but that St. Louisans should expect to see more from them in the near future.
GOP, Breitbart blame Soros
The theory that Gardner’s indictment of Greitens emerges from funding by Soros echoes an old conspiracy theory on the political right. Soros is a billionaire hedge fund manager who frequently donates to liberal politicians and political causes.
Conspiracy theories have accused Soros of funding everything from the 2016 Women’s March on Washington to calls for gun control in the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The theories frequently involve the idea that Soros is paying people to act as protestors advocating for various liberal causes.
Soros was first tied to the conflict between Gardner and Greitens in a press release by the Missouri Republican Party released the day after the indictment. Greitens has since sent out an email to his supporters asking them to share an article tying Gardner to Soros on the right-wing news website Breitbart.
“Soros’ Washington-DC based super PAC gave St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner almost $200,000 to make sure she carried his water once elected,” the Breitbart article, which also accuses Soros of funding protests in Ferguson, stated. “And she has: She’s softened enforcement of crimes and, worse, has used the powers of her office to recklessly pursue an investigation against the governor,” the article read.
According to the fact-checking website Snopes, Gardner did indeed receive money from political action committees (PACs) backed by Soros during her campaign. The contributions totaled $190,750.73.
Greitens, however, received an equal amount of money from Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire businessman and investor with many similarities to Soros, except that his many donations go to conservative campaigns and causes. Greitens also received millions from undisclosed donors through PACs.
“If the vague invocation of shadowy, rich puppet masters is a valid way to discredit the actions of a politician, then at the very least a dispute between Gardner and Greitens on those terms would be a draw,” the Snopes article concluded.
Watkins: Greitens is hypocrite
Greitens is also being called out for hypocrisy by Albert Watkins, the attorney who represents the ex-husband of Greitens’ former mistress.
Though Watkins has said his client has no interest in whether Greitens is removed from office and no desire to be further involved, Watkins issued a press release February 26 calling on the governor to dismiss the charges against another client of his.
The other client is Paul Henreid, who Watkins describes as a “young lawyer with political aspirations” who was charged with the same crime as Greitens. A previous plea for pardon was dismissed by former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
“I am very respectful of former Governor Nixon’s careful evaluation of the pardon request,” said Watkins. “The simple fact Governor Nixon did not embrace our legal rationale, and that of Governor Greitens, should not stop Governor Greitens from now exercising his judgment on this issue.”
Greitens, like the former client of Watkins’, filed a motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the person whose privacy was allegedly violated had no reasonable expectation of privacy. Watkins, according to his statement, also sent a copy of the request for clemency to Greitens’ defense attorney, Edward L. Dowd.
“Lordy, it would be mighty hypocritical of the governor not to grant my client’s request for a pardon given the fact that the basis for my client’s request appears identical to and on point with that which serves as the basis for the governor’s Motion to Dismiss his pending felony charge,” Watkins said. “What’s good for the governor should be good for the gander.”