St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said last week that a search warrant demanding thousands of records from her office would put countless people’s privacy at risk. On Tuesday, March 12, Circuit Court Judge Michael K. Mullen rejected Gardner’s motion to quash the search warrant, after claiming last week that Gardner’s office was “playing games.”
The warrant relates to a grand jury case reviewing whether Gardner’s investigator William Tisaby lied under oath last spring during then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ felonious invasion of privacy case.
Gardner’s attorneys appealed within hours of Mullen’s decision. In the short amount of time it took for them to file the appeal, the police and special prosecutor overseeing the grand jury case on Tisaby seized the circuit attorney’s email server – knowing an appeal was underway, according to Gardner. The Court of Appeals ordered a halt to the search warrant that evening.
“In my decades of work in the criminal justice system, I have never seen a chief prosecutor treated this way by a court or a police department,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., Gardner’s attorney.
He said he believes Special Prosecutor Gerard Carmody, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and even Mullen are trying to “intimidate and humiliate” Gardner and “strip her of the powers granted to her by the people of the City of St. Louis.”
This is the second search warrant that Carmody has issued in the grand jury case. Gardner’s office complied with the first search warrant in January. But the second search warrant, issued on February 21, is so broad that it would require the circuit attorney to hand over “every file in the office,” attorneys representing Gardner told a judge at a hearing on March 5. The warrant asks for all files stored on the office’s server that contain 31 common terms, including “notes,” “tape,” and “recording.”
A spokesman for Carmody’s office said he could not comment because of a gag order that Mullen issued on March 5. However, the appellate court also concluded on March 12 that the Gardner is not party to the Tisaby investigation and therefore not bound by Mullen’s gag order, according to Gardner.
The police and Carmody’s actions on March 12 temporarily interrupted the prosecutor’s entire email system “that is central to its efforts to keep the citizens of our city safe,” Gardner said.
Gardner said no information was retrieved from the server before it was returned.
“They were unsuccessful,” her attorney said.
The grand jury case came out of the contentious legal battle to prosecute Greitens for allegedly taking a semi-nude photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015 and then allegedly transmitting it so it could be viewed on a computer. Greitens’ felony charge was ultimately dropped.
There are still a lot of “personal feelings” and “water under the bridge” left over from that case, according to comments made between Gardner’s attorneys and Carmody’s team at the March 5 hearing addressing Gardner’s motion.
Gardner hired Tisaby, a former FBI agent, in January 2018 to investigate Greitens because she claimed the police department refused her requests to investigate the governor. The department denied that they were asked.
In April, attorneys accused Tisaby of lying about whether he had taken notes during an interview with Greitens’ alleged victim. The police department investigated this claim, which spurred the grand jury proceedings. In June, Mullen appointed Carmody, of Carmody MacDonald law firm, to oversee the grand jury investigation into Tisaby’s perjury charge.
However, Gardner alleges that there is more to this investigation than this perjury charge. It’s the latest attack on her office by the police department, according to her motion to quash the search warrant.
Mullen’s appointment of Carmody was questionable, given that Carmody has worked on cases with one of Greitens’ attorneys, Ed Dowd. In spring of 2018, Gardner filed a police report alleging that Greitens’ legal team threatened to ruin her professionally and personally if she continued to prosecute the former governor. The attorneys denied these allegations, according to the Associated Press.
The American asked the circuit court if any hearings were held regarding Carmody’s potential conflicts of interest as special prosecutor, and Mullen responded that there was at least one hearing on the appointment. However, no transcript exists. There are no letters or reports explaining Mullen's decision, and Carmody was not required to fill out any forms regarding potential conflicts of interest, a court spokesman said.
Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said that the police, judge and Carmody will have to answer to the community for their actions this week.
“It is exactly those actions that make African Americans feel that they don’t have a justice system that is fair and equitable,” Pruitt said. “Because if they use those tactics when it comes to the circuit attorney, you can imagine what they would do to the average citizen.”