ST. LOUIS – One day after six fellow reform-minded black female lead prosecuting attorneys converged on St. Louis to rally for Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner and her federal lawsuit alleging racism and conspiracy, the Ethical Society of Police announced via Twitter their support for some of her complaints.
Even as the ESOP made their announcement, one of the visiting attorneys shared on Twitter a viciously racist voicemail she had received slamming the attorney for her trip to support Gardner, and attacking blacks.
The police union’s statement said Wednesday:
“The Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) hasn’t agreed with some of the decisions of the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney, Kimberly Gardner or any other elected or appointed official in the City of St. Louis; however, we will not dismiss the Circuit Attorney’s lawsuit as being unsubstantiated when it comes to the racial climate in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD).”
Gardner, who campaigned – and was elected – on criminal justice reform promises, has encountered racist opposition and conspiracy to oust her, violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, according to a lawsuit she filed in federal court on Monday.
Gardner is the first African-American elected to serve as the circuit attorney in the city of St. Louis. She filed suit because she believes those named in it, all white, are recklessly and unlawfully conspiring to force her out of office.
The suit names the City of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA), Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 68, and its business manager and spokesperson Jeffery Roorda. Also named in the suit are Gerard Carmody; Patrick Carmody; Ryann Carmody; and Charles Lane.
Filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri, the suit also alleges violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.“I feel like what’s stake is not the individual Kim Gardner. I feel it is about efforts of addressing fairness and justice in the criminal justice system, making sure that we build trust as law enforcement with the community,” Gardner said.
Continuing, she said: “We make sure that we can hold those individuals accountable that prey on our community, but at the same time, implement the reforms we know that make our community safe, like alternatives, like diversion, like drug education classes, like getting people jobs and the services they need to address the trauma and the PSTD that drive a person to the criminal justice system.”
She added, “Knowing that, we have seen the devastation, the long-lasting effects of the broken criminal justice system. And we were elected, and myself, particularly in the city of St. Louis, to reform those effects, so that’s what this is about.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson’s spokesman, Jacob Long, said, “We haven’t received the complaint because it hasn’t been served.”
Roorda did not immediately return a call.
For months now a group of supporters of Gardner, who have held rallies on her behalf, have called the actions against the circuit attorney a race-based witch hunt and revenge for her bringing charges against disgraced then-Gov. Eric Greitens.
“I find it interesting that the circuit attorney has asked the federal courts to intervene, because of activities against her within the justice system, law enforcement and the courts in particular,” said local NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt, who has rallied for Gardner.
He said that although it wasn’t unusual for prosecutors, law enforcement and judges to disagree on charging and sentencing and such, the attacks against Gardner had risen to a level well beyond imagination.
“And it’s hard to separate those attacks and her treatment from the work that she’s trying to do as it relates to criminal justice reform – reform that organizations like mine have been pushing for years,” Pruitt explained, saying he had worked on diversion with Gardner’s predecessor, Jennifer Joyce, without any attacks being made against her.
On Tuesday, the other reform-minded African-American female circuit attorneys converged on St. Louis to support Gardner, whose office is being investigated by special prosecutor Gerard Carmody regarding integrity in the case against Greitens.
The rally took place on the steps of the Carnahan Courthouse. As with many of the rallies last year, Gardner did not attend. She did, however, attend a panel discussion later that afternoon with the other female prosecutors, at Harris-Stowe University.
“We don’t have to ask permission to do the things that we’re doing,” Suffolk, Mass., District Attorney Rachael Rollins said, explaining that she too had been challenged in court. “We have prosecutorial discretion. … All of the men that had the job before me were able to use their prosecutorial discretion for mass incarceration, and no one ever blinked an eye.”
The other panelists were State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore, Md.; District Attorney Diana Becton, Contra Costa County, Calif.; State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, Prince George’s County, Md.; Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales, Portsmouth, Va.; and State’s Attorney Aramis Ayala, Orange and Osceola County, Fla.
The discussion was moderated by veteran D.C. prosecutor Jamila Hodge. She is director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Reshaping Prosecution Program, which now works in collaboration with Gardner’s office.
Gardner attended only the last 30 minutes of the panel because of a flight delay. In her initial absence, her First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Serena Wilson-Griffin addressed a packed house of supporters and introduced the visiting prosecutors.
“They present a sisterhood that was born of racist hazing that is encouraged and celebrated by a racist establishment, an establishment that has declared war on strong black women who refuse to kiss the ring or dance to their song,” Wilson-Griffin said, drawing applause from the predominately black audience.
Culminating her introduction, she said:
“These women are ushering in a change that is overdue but also that is non-negotiable. See, sometimes as lawyers, we think we can negotiate anything, but we can’t. It’s not negotiable. It’s happening. This change is not negotiable, so any attempt to stop it is futile.”
Many of those prosecutors say they have also encountered pushback against their criminal justice reform efforts.
Mosby’s office received on Tuesday a hate-filled voicemail attacking her and others for their support of Gardner, and insulting blacks in general. Mosby shared the audio on her Twitter account.
However, Gardner, in an interview with The NorthSider, summed up her opposition here as an anomaly.
“We go through hardship as first African-American female prosecutors, but this suit is saying that St. Louis is different,” Gardner asserted. “Even though we have some similar issues, this has been unprecedented in the reform impediments, to stop the elected prosecutor.
“This is why is suit is so important,” she said.
The lawsuit states, “Sadly, the City of St. Louis has a long history of racial inequality and prejudice in its criminal justice system generally, and within its police force particularly” – something, she said, that she set out to change.
In that effort, the lawsuit says, her efforts to reform the criminal justice system here have faced a “broad campaign of collusive conduct” from the defendants. That campaign, the lawsuits alleges, included the appointment of Gerard Carmody to investigate the activities of her office and a “patently overboard and unconstitutional ransacking of the office’s electronic files.”
The suit also concludes that while the defendants leveraged their control of the Special Prosecutor’s office, complete with subpoena and a grand jury, the purpose wasn’t to charge her, because she hasn’t committed a crime. The effort was to thwart and impede her from reforming the criminal justice system, the suit says.
The grand jury disbanded last year, but the Special Prosecutor kept the investigation going.
Gardner, in the lawsuit, says the passage of the Ku Klux Klan Act by Congress in the aftermath of the Civil War was implemented to address precisely this scenario: “A racially-motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s effort to ensure equal justice under the law for all.”
Gardner’s suit also cites racists Facebook posts by Roorda and other city police officers, unequal treatment of officers, racial profiling and unequal police stops, citing a 2016 report by the ESOP.
A statement the ESOP released Tuesday outlined key occurrences regarding the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
It cited three lawsuits against the police department by blacks outlining disparities in discipline.
One was by Capt. Ryan Cousins, who was awarded $1.1 million in a wrongful termination case.
Another was by Officer Milton Green, who was shot by a fellow officer. The statement cites differences in support from the SLPOA for Green, who is black, and the officer who shot him, Christopher Tanner, who is white.
Lastly, it cited the lawsuit and federal indictment relative to the beating of city police detective Luther Hall during the 2017 protests after white officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black. The ESOP highlighted criminal offenses and racially biased statements from the indictment of at least six white officers. Stockley’s statement that a fleeing suspect had pointed a gun at him was later found to be in question when DNA evidence of the suspect was found on the weapon.
Gardner said her suit was about those who had elected her, and their voice.
“It’s about the people,” she said. “It’s about a small few trying to coordinate to stop the efforts of reform, and that why this suit is important. This is addressing the will of the people.
“The people elected a reform-minded prosecutor, and when you get together to collude to stop those efforts, you’re silencing the people.”