ST. LOUIS – St. Louis’ first black prosecutor, Kim Gardner, has sued the city, its police union and five others for what she calls a racist effort to block her reform agenda.
“Gardner was elected in 2016 on a promise to redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color,” reads the lawsuit filed Monday in federal court. “Unfortunately, entrenched interests in St. Louis … have mobilized to thwart these efforts through a broad campaign of collusive conduct” to protect the status quo and remove her from office.
Gardner alleges civil rights violations as well as violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The named defendants in the lawsuits are white.
The lawsuit names the city of St. Louis; the St. Louis Police Officers Association; the police union’s business manager, Jeff Roorda; and Gerard Carmody, a special prosecutor who indicted an investigator hired by Gardner, among others.
Jacob Long, a spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said the city “vehemently denied what it considers to be meritless allegations levied against it,” and expected to be “fully vindicated” at trial, St.LouisPubicRadio reported.
It’s “the last act of a desperate woman,” according to Roorda. Moreover, he said the police union considers the lawsuit “frivolous and without merit.”
The lawsuit says the police union “has gone out of its way to support white officers accused of perpetrating acts of violence and excessive force against African American citizens.” It cites Roorda’s support of Darren Wilson, the white officer who was exonerated after fatally shooting Michael Brown, a black suspect, in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
Gardner, a Democrat, became the city’s first African American circuit attorney when she was elected in 2016. Her policies were controversial from the start, but she drew her strongest criticism for hiring a private investigator, former FBI agent William Tisaby, rather than working with police to investigate claims that then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens took a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair, Fox News reported.
The investigation led to a felony invasion of privacy charge. The charge was eventually dropped but led to Greitens’ resignation in June 2018.
However, Greitens’ attorneys raised questions about Tisaby’s conduct.
The defense team wanted Tisaby to testify. When he refused, a judge ordered Gardner to testify. However, this is something she said she could not do while also prosecuting the case.
Police investigating perjury allegations against Tisaby asked a second judge in June 2018 to appoint a special prosecutor, a request that Judge Michael Mullen granted,
Mullen then named St. Louis attorney Gerard Carmody to that role. Carmody presented the case to a grand jury, which indicted Tisaby on seven counts of perjury and evidence tampering. Tisaby has pleaded not guilty, according to St.LouisPublicRadio.
Gardner’s suit points out numerous connections between Carmody, his law firm, Gardner’s opponents in the 2016 election, Greitens’ defense team, and the St. Louis Police Officers Association, which has frequently clashed with Gardner. Gardner accuses the St. Louis Police Department of delaying investigations into threatening letters she received during the Greitens prosecution.
Defendants “have conspired for the purpose of impeding, hindering, obstructing, or defeating the due course of justice, with the intent to injure Gardner or her property for lawfully enforcing and/or attempting to enforce the rights of all persons within the City of St. Louis to equal protection of the laws,” her attorneys wrote.
They are seeking monetary damages, and asking a judge to stop the defendants from “violating Gardner’s civil rights.”
Carmody declined to comment. His daughter Ryann and son Patrick, who have worked on the case against Tisaby, are also named in the suit. Charles Lane, the seventh individual sued, is a former police officer who challenged Gardner’s authority to pay for outside attorneys using city money.
The lawsuit lists just one instance in which Gardner was unable to achieve something because of the actions of the defendants. But Allison Hawk, a spokeswoman for Gardner, said the legal battles over the Greitens prosecution had taken a lot of time and effort.
Roy Austin, one of eight attorneys listed in federal court papers, said the advocacy group Mothers Against Police Brutality was covering the cost of litigation. The group did not return a phone call or an email from St.LouisPublicRadio for comment.