* Served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 – 2017
* Was elected as St. Louis Circuit Attorney in 2016 with financial support from George Soros
* Sued the city of St. Louis and its police union, accusing them of racism
* Characterizes the American justice system as a racist institution
* Failed to properly disclose her trips that were paid for by activist groups
Kimberly M. Gardner was born on August 2, 1975 in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration from Harris-Stowe State University in 1999, a J.D. from Saint Louis University in 2003, and a Master’s of Science degree in Nursing in 2012.
After completing law school, Gardner worked at the St. Louis-based law firm of Bell, Kirksey & Associates. In 2005 she left that firm to begin a five-year stint as an Assistant Circuit Attorney at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.
In 2012, Gardner was elected as a Democrat to the Missouri House of Representatives, where she represented District 77. During her four years there, she sponsored or co-sponsored such legislation as the following:
Next, Gardner ran for the post of St. Louis Circuit Attorney, the city’s chief prosecutor, in 2016. Her campaign received some $190,000 from a George Soros-funded super PAC based in Washington, D.C. With the 2014 death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri still fresh in the minds of St. Louis voters, Gardner pledged that if she were to be elected, she would enact a wide range of criminal-justice reforms to address the racism that she claimed was pervasive in America’s courts and police departments.
In early August 2016, Gardner easily defeated her three opponents in the Democratic primary for St. Louis Circuit Attorney. With no official Republican opponent in the race that November, Gardner had essentially secured the position with her primary victory. She assumed office on January 1, 2017.
True to her campaign pledge to bring criminal-justice reform to St. Louis, Gardner, from the start of her tenure as Circuit Attorney, prosecuted significantly fewer cases per year than had her predecessor. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted on January 30, 2019: “A report on the data gathered from Gardner’s office says prosecutors now decline 64 percent of cases that are referred to them.”
In February 2020, a data report suggested that under Gardner, just 51% of all prosecutions for violent crimes in St. Louis had resulted in “guilty” verdicts in 2018, and 54% in 2019. These figures were far below the Circuit Attorney Office’s historical average of 72%. Then, in the first two weeks of February 2020, the numbers dropped even further: Gardner’s office secured a “guilty” verdict in a meager 25% of all trials.
These low figures were due, in part, to the fact that the prosecutors in Gardner’s office were generally quite inexperienced; indeed, only two trial attorneys had been employed there for more than a five-year period. This inexperience was, in large measure, a result of the fact that many of the attorneys in Gardner’s office had quit their jobs because of their displeasure with the manner in which the Circuit Attorney was dealing with crime. One report, for instance, found that more than 65 attorneys with a combined 470 years of legal experience had left the office since Gardner became Circuit Attorney. As a result, noted the St. Louis Dispatch in September 2019, Gardner’s office was in a “state of dysfunction, low morale and dearth of legal wisdom necessary to safeguard the public from potentially dangerous criminals.” “It’s not normal to lose that many people,” said a former Assistant Circuit Attorney of St. Louis, Jeff Ernst. “The real concern is you don’t have the people that are entrenched that can teach the people fresh out of law school how to be prosecutors.”
St. Louis was hit particularly hard by violent riots in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But during the first four days of June 2020, only 36 people were arrested in St. Louis for offenses related to rioting, looting, and acts of arson. And all 36 were swiftly released from custody, with no criminal charges filed against any of them.
In July 2021, a St. Louis Circuit Judge declared that Gardner’s office had “essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes.” In one case, for instance, that judge was compelled to dismiss a murder charge in which a black defendant named Brandon Campbell stood accused of the April 2020 killing of Randy Moore, a young black father of three children, because prosecutors from Gardner’s office had failed to show up for three consecutive court hearings in their case against Campbell. Gardner subsequently alleged, falsely, that her office had refiled the charges against Campbell and that the suspect was in custody, when in fact the accused murderer was free. Moreover, in violation of state law, Gardner’s office failed to contact Randy Moore’s family members in order to inform them that Campbell was no longer in custody. And eventually, it was learned that because Kim Arshi, the attorney whom Gardner’s office had assigned to the case, was on extended maternity leave, Arshi’s digital signature had been forged onto documents related to the Campbell case – just as it had been similarly forged onto documents pertaining to at least 20 other homicide cases that were likewise being tried or investigated while her leave was in effect.
“Another mother, Shirley Washington Cobb,… said Gardner’s prosecutors had struck with her son’s alleged killer without her knowledge. Again, the law requires crime victims’ families be kept informed of the developments in their loved one’s cases. Cobb said she only found out about the deal by chance when she called Gardner’s office to ask when she should book her flight to St. Louis from her home in Texas. On that call, she learned [that] the prosecutor who originally handled her son’s case had left the office, and [that] a new prosecutor, Srikant Chigurupati, had been assigned. He told her they were moving forward with an eight-year plea deal that the previous prosecutor agreed to – a claim Cobb strongly denies.
“She said the previous prosecutor, Jay Godsy, told her in front of two witnesses that he believed there was enough evidence to go to trial and seek a 20-year sentence and that he planned to reject the eight-year plea deal. She wrote letters to the judge on the case, begging him not to accept the plea deal and said Gardner herself along with two of her staff members called to ‘bully’ her into accepting the deal, saying the evidence in the case wasn’t strong and she is risking losing at trial and setting him free.”
Gardner’s new approach to prosecution was associated with a dramatic rise in violent crime throughout St. Louis. In 2020, for example, the city’s homicide rate reached its highest level in 50 years. The 264 homicides that took place in St. Louis during 2020 represented a 36.1% increase over 2019 and was only three homicides shy of the highest total the city had ever seen.
In July 2020, St. Louis Magazine wrote the following about Gardner’s soft approach to drug crimes: “Gardner … has stopped issuing standalone charges for marijuana possession of less than 100 grams. She has offered diversion to low-level and nonviolent offenders. The number of convictions secured by her office so far is several thousands lower than in the final three years of her predecessor.”
In February 2018, Circuit Attorney Gardner issued an indictment against Missouri’s Republican Governor, Eric Greitens, on a felony charge for invasion of privacy. Specifically, Greitens’ mistress complained that the governor, who was married, had taken a photograph of her without her knowledge or consent on one occasion when she was semi-nude — perhaps to use the photo as leverage by which to blackmail the woman from ever publicly exposing her affair with the governor. Greitens responded to the indictment by calling Gardner “a reckless liberal prosecutor who uses her office to score political points.”
Rather than following the usual protocol of using police officers to examine the woman’s claims against Greitens, Gardner’s office hired an outside private investigator named William Tisaby to conduct the probe. After Greitens’ defense team deposed Tisaby about his work on the case, they accused him of having lied under oath multiple times during his deposition. A Missouri judge subsequently appointed a special prosecutor to look into that allegation, the result being that a grand jury eventually indicted Tisaby on six counts of perjury plus one count of tampering with physical evidence. As St. Louis Magazine noted, it was particularly troubling that “Gardner sat by [Tisaby’s] side [during the deposition and] didn’t correct his testimony.”
A Heritage Foundation analysis of the Greitens case said that the governor’s defense team had asked Tisaby, during the latter’s deposition, if he had received any information from Gardner before he had interacted in any way with Greitens’ mistress. Though Tisaby said no, the grand jury alleged that Gardner had in fact sent Tisaby six pages of notes, spoken to him by phone for five hours, exchanged more than 100 texts with him, and even met him in person in Louisiana. Also during the Greitens defense team’s deposition of Tisaby, they asked him if he “had been in contact with Gardner during the [lunch] break.” He replied, “Not at all.” But according to the grand jury indictment, Gardner and the investigator had indeed spoken at least seven times by phone during that lunch break for a total of 34 minutes.
St. Louis’ Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Alan Pratzel, stated that Gardner’s communications with Tisaby should have been recorded on a “privilege log” – i.e., a list of documents that the judge presiding over the case could review in order to determine whether or not Gardner was required by law to give the information contained in those documents to Greitens’ legal team. Gardner claimed that she had not intentionally omitted the six pages of notes from the privilege log.
The Heritage Foundation also analyzed what it viewed as Gardner’s brazen defiance of a court order when she refused to respond to one news reporter’s request — by way of Missouri’s Sunshine Law, a state-level Freedom of Information Act statute — for information regarding anyone with whom Gardner and her office may have communicated prior to and during her investigation of Governor Greitens. Said Heritage: “When the reporter didn’t receive the information, he filed a lawsuit and obtained a default judgment because Gardner’s office refused to respond. The judge in the case … [condemned] Gardner for her ‘reckless, dilatory and intentional refusal to timely file a responsive pleading.’ Later that year … the judge again made clear that ‘this didn’t just happen once. This is consistent behavior,’ and that he thought Gardner and her office were ‘attempting to obfuscate this process.’”
Gardner eventually dismissed the invasion-of-privacy charges against Governor Greitens. In May 2021, it was reported that Gardner would likely have to face a disciplinary panel and could possibly receive punishment from the Missouri Supreme Court, including a revocation of her law license.
On March 23, 2022, private investigator William Tisaby pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of tampering with physical evidence and received a suspended sentence of one year’s probation.
During an April 11, 2022 hearing in St. Louis County, Gardner and Chief Disciplinary Counsel Alan Pratzel unveiled an agreement in which Gardner admitted to having: (a) unintentionally failed to provide key evidence to a judge so that the latter could review it, and (b) failed to correct misstatements made by her contracted investigator, William Tisaby. “The evidence does not support a conclusion that these documents were deliberately withheld from production,” the agreement stated. “There is no finding that the Circuit Attorney or her office had an improper motive or strategy regarding the production of materials in the Greitens case.” Pratzel then presented the agreement to a three-person panel affiliated with Missouri’s attorney disciplinary system. That panel was expected to make a recommendation within 30 days to the Missouri Supreme Court, which in turn would make the final decision as to whether or not Gardner had committed professional misconduct.
In 2019, the Missouri Ethics Commission fined Gardner and her campaign $63,000 for violations of campaign finance and reporting rules. Even when this same commission agreed to forgive 90% of that fine if Gardner would simply abide by all campaign finance regulations for the next two years, she failed to comply.
In January 2020, Gardner filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis and its police union, claiming that various racist conspirators therein were working to remove her from office in order to derail her efforts to “redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color.” Gardner likened this alleged “racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all,” to the atmosphere that had existed when the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was first passed.
In September 2020, an Obama-appointed federal judge found Gardner’s lawsuit so preposterous that he dismissed the case, concluding that Gardner’s “complaint is nothing more than a compilation of personal slights–none of which rise to a legal cause of action.”
In a January 2020 interview, Gardner claimed that while she recently had been driving her car, a St. Louis police officer had pulled her over without a stated reason and detained her for fifteen minutes as a form of intimidation and abuse. A surveillance video, however, subsequently revealed that Gardner had been detained by the officer for only six minutes. And contrary to her claim that she “still [did not] know the reason why” she had been pulled over, Gardner was seen in the video acknowledging that she had been stopped because her headlights were not properly turned on. The video also showed the officer giving Gardner a verbal warning and then permitting her to go on her way. As one member of the St. Louis Police Officers Association subsequently said of Gardner: “She’s not talking about [the incident] publicly, she’s lying about it publicly.”
Gardner gained national attention in July 2020 when she charged a white St. Louis couple, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, with unlawful use of weapons after they had brandished their legally owned firearms in response to a group of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors who were trespassing into their gated neighborhood and approaching the couple’s home. Later reflecting on that incident, Gardner said she was “alarmed” by the fact that BLM’s “peaceful protestors were met by guns and a violent assault.” After Gardner used a fundraising email to boast about the charges she had filed against the McCloskeys, a judge removed her from the McCloskey case on grounds that she had “initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes.”
On August 25, 2020, Gardner co-authored a Politico piece entitled “Prosecutors Are Not Exempt from Criticism,” along with fellow leftist prosecutors Satana Deberry, Kim Foxx, Diana Becton, and Rachael Rollins. Characterizing the American justice system as an institution rife with racism, the article started with the following words: “Our criminal legal system was constructed to control Black people and people of color. Its injustices are not new but are deeply rooted in our country’s shameful history of slavery and legacy of racial violence. The system is acting exactly as it was intended to, and that is the problem.”
Articulating a shared desire to “transform the broader criminal legal system,” Gardner and her Politico co-authors urged fellow prosecutors to adhere to the following “commitments”:
Gardner has been suspected of not properly and fully disclosing trips she has taken where her travel was sponsored and paid for by activist groups like Fair And Just Prosecution (FAJP), which “brings together elected local prosecutors as part of a network of leaders committed to promoting a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.” According to a June 2020 report by KMOV.com, Gardner “has often been gone from her office a couple of times every month, jetting around on someone else’s dime.” Since becoming Circuit Attorney, she had visited such cities as New York, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, New Haven, and Selma. One trip even took her as far as Portugal.
Gardner was reelected as St. Louis Circuit Attorney in November 2020, garnering 74% of the vote and securing another four-year term that would run through January 1, 2025. In this reelection campaign, she received approximately $119,000 in funding from George Soros.
Meet Kimberly Gardner, the Rogue Prosecutor Whose Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in St. Louis
By Zack Smith and Charles “Cully” Stimson
April 14, 2021