St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says a search warrant demanding thousands of records from her office is the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s latest attack against her – and one that puts countless people’s privacy at risk.
“The warrant is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the law and the people of St. Louis in retribution for my efforts to hold the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department accountable and reform our criminal justice system,” Gardner said in a statement on March 4, after filing a motion to quash the search warrant.
This is the second warrant that Special Prosecutor Gerard Carmody has issued in the grand jury case investigating whether Gardner’s investigator lied under oath during her work investigating whether then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens committed felonious invasion of privacy.
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 and the Circuit Attorney’s Office told a judge at a hearing on Tuesday, March 5. The warrants asks for all files stored on the office’s server that contain 31 common terms, including “notes,” “tape,” and “recording.”
“The warrant places the safety, security, and privacy of certain St. Louis people at risk,” the March 4 motion to halt the search warrant states. “There is no guarantee that the special prosecutor – a private citizen – has the security protocols in place to protect the highly sensitive information the warrant seeks. If the information is compromised, the victims’ personal residence, health and financial information is put at risk and targets of violent crime and corruption may learn of investigations.”
The case is residual baggage from the contentious legal battle to prosecute Greitens, now the former governor, 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 by 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 at the March 5 hearing addressing the Gardner’s motion between Gardner’s attorneys and Carmody’s team.
Gardner hired former FBI agent William Tisaby 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 the woman at the center of the case. The police department decided to investigate this claim, which spurred the grand jury proceedings. In June, Circuit Judge Michael Mullen appointed Gerard Carmody, of Carmody MacDonald law firm, to oversee the grand jury investigation into Tisaby’s perjury charge.
However, Gardner alleges in her motion that there is more to this investigation than this perjury charge.
Gardner, the first African-American woman to be elected to her position in St. Louis, ran on a promise to “reform a broken system,” the motion states. Since she began her term on January 1, 2017, she claims she has been under “a near-constant barrage of criticism” from the police department for her decisions, including to seek first-degree murder charges against former police officer Jason Stockley for the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. In August 2018, her office angered the police department when she placed 28 city officers on an “exclusion list,” based on the officers’ “veracity,” it states. Such lists, known as a “Brady list,” are commonly kept by prosecutors to protect the credibility of their witnesses.
Recently, the circuit attorney accused the police of obstruction when her investigators attempted to obtain a drug test from an officer who fatally shot and killed a colleague on January 24. Police Chief John Hayden angrily responded at a press conference saying that Gardner’s accusation was “insulting.”
“The department’s animosity toward the circuit attorney’s efforts resulted in the unprecedented appointment of this special prosecutor,” the motion states. “Now, the unelected special prosecutor is using the warrant to usurp the power of the St. Louis-elected circuit attorney.”
A police spokesperson said the department could not comment on Gardner’s statement because of the ongoing investigation.
Last spring, Gardner attempted to file a police report alleging that Greitens’ attorneys threatened to “ruin” her.
Gardner told the Associated Press that on March 16, 2018, three weeks after Greitens’ indictment, several of the governor’s lawyers came to her office to try to persuade her to drop the case. “Basically they told me I would be ruined personally, professionally, and it’s only going to get worse,” she told the AP.
She alleged a similar threat was made in April shortly before she filed a second felony charge alleging that Greitens illegally used a donor list from a veterans charity he founded to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign, the AP reported.
Greitens’ attorneys called her claims “completely false.”
Police Sgt. Keith Barrett said the matter is under investigation.
In her motion, Gardner states the search warrant will yield information far outside the scope of whether or not Tisaby lied about his notes on the Greitens case. She believes it is a “clear fishing expedition,” Gardner said in a statement on March 4. “I will not allow shameful overreach to jeopardize the public’s interest and safety.”
She also said, “It is difficult to understand how the notes of Mr. Tisaby remain relevant when everything was disclosed and turned over to the defense in the spring of 2018.”
Mullen approved the search warrant. In court on March 5, Mullen said he couldn’t believe Gardner was fighting the search.
“This is a grand jury investigation,” Mullen said. “Time is of the essence, and I think your office is playing games with us.”
Mullen also appointed Carmody, who has worked on cases with Greitens’ attorney Ed Dowd. 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 but 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.
Mullen ordered that Carmody’s team respond to the motion by March 7. The lawyers representing Gardner and the Circuit Attorney’s Office would have until March 11 to offer a response. Mullen said he will make his decision by March 12. Surprised by media attention at the March 5 hearing, Mullen also placed both parties under a gag order.