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Judge rejects Gardner’s suit alleging racist efforts at ouster

A federal judge tossed out on Wednesday a federal rights lawsuit filed by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and blasted her claims that she was the victim of a coordinated and racist conspiracy aimed at forcing her from office.

Gardner, the city’s elected prosecutor, claimed in the suit that “entrenched interests” were intentionally impeding her efforts to reform racist practices that have led to a loss of trust in the criminal justice system. The lawsuit also alleged violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. Gardner is Black; the named defendants are white.

U.S. District Judge John Ross wrote that Gardner’s lawsuit “can best be described as a conglomeration of unrelated claims and conclusory statements supported by very few facts, which do not plead any recognizable cause of action.”

But her attorney, Roy Austin Jr., said in a written statement that the city was hiding records that would reveal its dishonesty.

“Nothing about today’s Court ruling changes the underlying merit of this case. Kimberly Gardner has been viciously attacked by the coordinated powerful few simply because she is a Black woman reforming the criminal justice system so that all people in the City of St. Louis are treated fairly,” he said. “We will continue to fight on behalf of Ms. Gardner until the truth of this conspiracy is brought to light.”

The lawsuit named the city of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, its business manager, Jeff Roorda, and Gerard Carmody, a special prosecutor who indicted an investigator hired by Gardner to handle a case against then-Gov. Eric Greitens. It also names Carmody’s son and daughter, who helped in his investigation, and a former police officer who sued over Gardner’s use of private attorneys related to Carmody’s investigation.

Roorda said previously that the union considered the lawsuit “frivolous and without merit.” The St. Louis Police Officers Association and the spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

In his ruling, Ross described her complaint as “nothing more than a compilation of personal slights — none of which rise to a legal cause of action.”

Gardner’s complaint cited St. Louis’ “long history of racial inequality and prejudice in its criminal justice system generally, and within its police force particularly.” She said that she had been elected to change that, but that the police union and others “have mobilized to thwart these efforts.”

Gardner’s lawsuit said Carmody’s appointment as special prosecutor was especially concerning because of his lifelong friendship with Edward L. Dowd Jr., one of Greitens’ attorneys. The two went to school together and served in the same law practice. Gardner said her efforts to raise conflict-of-interest concerns were ignored.

Gardner, a Democrat, became the city’s first African American circuit attorney when she was elected in 2016. Her relationship with police was testy from the start.

But she drew her strongest criticism in 2018, when she hired a private investigator, former FBI agent William Tisaby, rather than working with police to investigate claims that Greitens took a compromising photo of a woman during an extra-marital affair. The investigation led to a felony invasion of privacy charge. Though the charge was eventually dropped, Greitens, a Republican, resigned in June 2018.

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