On the outside, it seems like a win for the black community and anyone else who would like to see the old boys’ club in St. Louis disrupted and held accountable.
St. Louis’ Presiding Judge Rex M. Burlison has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that the attorneys of former governor Eric Greitens threatened to “ruin” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner if she continued to prosecute a felonious invasion of privacy charge against the governor.
“We advocated for it,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP. “To us, that’s more serious of a charge than someone lying during a deposition” (for which William Tisaby, an investigator hired by Gardner on the Greitens case, was indicted for perjury and evidence tampering in a separate special prosecutor proceeding). “If prosecutors could be threatened or harassed to drop charges out of fear of retaliation, then the scales of justice are tipped towards those who have the ability to make threats and carry them out.”
Greitens’ lawyers allegedly made the first threats that they would “ruin” Gardner’s professional career at a March 16, 2018 meeting, Gardner told The American in past interviews and again in April 2018. Greitens’ lawyers allegedly did not want Gardner to pursue charges against Greitens for allegedly taking a semi-nude picture of a woman without her consent and then transferred it in a way that it could be accessed by a computer.
Gardner then reported the threats to the police, she said. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has completed its investigation and is pursuing charges, according to court documents. The police department would not comment on when it completed its investigation.
On June 5, the Circuit Attorney’s Office filed a motion requesting appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the case of tampering with a public officer and a judicial officer. The motion states that multiple former and current assistant circuit attorneys are potential witnesses.
The American reached out to the lawyers at Dowd Bennett law firm, where Greitens’ lawyers practice, but they did not return our call.
However, they were quite verbose with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the newspaper that has been championing the lawyers’ attacks on Gardner and Tisaby. And they said some disturbing things.
Lawyer Jim Martin told the Post-Dispatch, “We are well aware of the fact that the police department has been looking into this for several months. The police officers investigating this matter have told us that no one, including two members of Ms. Gardner’s staff, have provided any evidence that there was a threat. The two staff members denied that they heard any threat, according to the police officers. We have been told that there is no credible evidence of a threat.”
Gardner has not even seen the police report in this case and has only received a heavily redacted incident report, according to sources in Gardner’s office. She even went to the police department herself to get the report and was denied.
Yet Martin — one of the attorneys whom the police were supposed to be investigating — seems to have quite a bit of information about their investigation into him and his colleagues.
The American asked the police department to comment on the accuracy of Martin’s assertions and a spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
Well, according to Martin, this statement is a lie — or Martin is lying.
“If he’s telling the truth, that raises serious questions about the police investigation,” Pruitt said. “They won’t give the police report to Kim, but the person who is accused of making the threat, you can share with them the investigation. If it’s true, it’s a very serious problem.”
Asked to comment, Martin only said, “We expect that this matter will be concluded in a timely and just manner.”
Conflicts of interest
The judges of the 22nd Circuit Court don’t seem to get it.
“I just don’t know why they can’t get this right,” Pruitt said.
For months, the black community has criticized a circuit judge’s selection of Special Prosecutor Gerard Carmody in the William Tisaby case. Circuit Judge Michael K. Mullen picked Carmody without vetting him for his potential conflicts of interest. And in fact, Carmody is close friends with one of the attorneys, Ed Dowd, that filed the complaint against Tisaby.
And now the tables have turned. Dowd and some of Greitens’ attorneys will be put under the microscope, just as Gardner’s office has been throughout this year.
On Tuesday July 16, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court Presiding Burlison appointed the retired Judge Michael Bradley of Columbia as special prosecutor to investigate allegations of tampering with a judicial officer. Bradley retired as a Boone County associate circuit judge on December 31. He had served since 2011 and presided over criminal, civil and probate dockets. Bradley is a former assistant attorney general who worked for former governor Jay Nixon from 1995 to 2009 when he served as attorney general. Nixon appointed Bradley to the bench in April 2011.
And wouldn’t you know it? Nixon is currently a partner at the Dowd Bennett law firm, the same law firm as the accused Greitens’ attorneys in this case.
According to a spokesman for the circuit court, Burlison did not hold any hearings to vet Bradley for conflicts of interest or require that Bradley fill out any forms stating his conflicts of interest before he made his decision.
Pruitt brought up the fact that as a judge, Bradley had to recuse himself in a driving-while-intoxicated case against Willson Wheeler Nixon, Jay Nixon’s son. It was due to the fact that Bradley had worked with Nixon for so long.
“The governor is working for the firm that he’s investigating,” Pruitt said. “Does he have to recuse himself now?”
Gardner released a statement that she is pleased that the court has assigned a special prosecutor “in this important matter.”
“I’m confident Mr. Bradley has been a fine and honorable attorney throughout his career,” Gardner said.
However, she did make veiled references to Bradley’s ties with the Dowd Bennett firm.
“In June, my office made the recommendation to appoint well-respected retired Buchanan County prosecutor Dwight Scroggins to this role,” Gardner stated. “It’s critical that this matter gets an objective and independent review. Given the controversy over the past year, I believe the special prosecutor should not possess even the appearance of a conflict. Mr. Scroggins has no personal ties to anyone associated with this matter or the Greitens’ matter.
We encourage the community to continue to review the facts, scrutinize the process and identify close relationships with firms, judges, and individuals in this case to determine the objectivity and fairness of the special prosecutor.”
The American was not able to reach Bradley for comment.
“Between the police investigators sharing and updating the person they are investigating on top of this, it just continues to boggle the imagination,” Pruitt said. “Gardner is a woman and the first African American to hold this office — are those two factors are influencing some of this stuff? It’s hard to frame that as not.”