The Missouri attorney general wants to get in on prosecuting Jason Stockley verdict protestors, as he steps past the 3,500 misdemeanor and traffic tickets written by the Missouri State Highway Patrol officers who were on traffic duty in St. Louis highways, under orders of Governor Eric Greitens.
Missouri Attorney General Joshua Hawley sent a letter dated September 16 to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, offering help in the more high-profile prosecution of demonstrators arrested following the Jason Stockley verdict. Hawley has formed an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate in 2018.
“My office stands ready to provide you with any assistance, support, and resources necessary to protect the lives, property, and constitutional rights of the residents of St. Louis,” Hawley’s letter read, in part.
That offer of support and concern about her caseload, however, is not where her office needs Hawley’s help. There have only been four protest cases to the prosecutor by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and Gardner’s office has it handled.
In her response, Gardner stated that her office is only “reviewing recommended charges for people arrested for alleged illegal conduct involving violence, assaultive behavior and/or destruction of property” and that police had not brought any charges related to rioting.
Wednesday morning, September 20, Gardner sent a letter to Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, asking him to direct Hawley instead to assist the misdemeanor division of her office in prosecuting those 3,500 un-reviewed tickets and actions stacked up under their cooperative agreement with St. Louis Police and the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Back in July, the Highway Patrol began patrolling highways within the city limits under Greitens’ order in order to free St. Louis police to concentrate on crime, Greitens said. Thus far, their work has yielded over 3,500 tickets or actions. At this pace, Gardner said the Highway Patrol is on track to add over 35,000 tickets or misdemeanors to the Associate Circuit Court docket within one year.
“We cannot absorb what is tantamount to an unfunded mandate,” said Gardner. Traditionally, the bulk of traffic and misdemeanor matters have been handled by the St. Louis City Counselor at a local level. “We are not staffed or funded to handle the additional workload presented by the Missouri Highway Patrol. The best and most valuable use of our limited resources and manpower is to protect public safety by addressing the rising violent crime facing our community.”
She said her office will continue to address the DWIs, outstanding misdemeanor warrants/arrests and all outstanding felony warrants/arrests brought to the office by the Highway Patrol. Regarding protestor arrests, Gardner said police are bringing arrests for alleged illegal conduct involving non-violent trespass, non-violent civil disobedience to the City Counselor’s team for charging review. She added that incidents involving nonviolent disobedience or non-assaultive behavior are not being referred to the Circuit Attorney for review for state charges.
Gardner said, “I am confident that important conversations are occurring among citizens and city leaders that will result in reform and make our city a better place for all.”