AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Kimberly M. Gardner, the far-left circuit attorney of St. Louis, has become the latest George Soros-backed district attorney to face calls to resign amid skyrocketing crime and severe staffing shortages stemming from her embrace of the radical criminal justice “reform” movement.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed last week that Gardner’s office is so understaffed that each remaining prosecutor is handling, on average, over a hundred felony cases at a time. The immense workload has led to severe burnout, with Gardner’s office shrinking from a high of 58 prosecutors in August 2016 to 30 today.
According to a 2002 U.S. Department of Justice study, prosecutors can handle about 20 murder cases per year with no other assignments. But as the Post-Dispatch reports, one prosecutor in St. Louis is currently handling “45 open murder or manslaughter cases and roughly 60 other, mostly violent felonies.”
At the same time, St. Louis has been plagued by rising violent crime, including brazen acts of violence in high-traffic areas of the city. In one viral incident late last month, a man was filmed calmly loading a gun before killing a homeless individual execution-style in broad daylight in the middle of downtown St. Louis. Some studies have pegged the Gateway City as the most dangerous in America on a per-capita basis.
Gardner has been a controversial figure since taking office in 2017. Her campaign platform aggressively focused on “alternatives” to prosecution, relaxing criminal probation oversight, and minimizing “unnecessary incarceration.”
These radically progressive positions caught the eye of liberal billionaire George Soros, who has spent much of the last decade funding progressive district attorney candidates. Soros-linked PACs donated more than $100,000 to Gardner’s campaign, along with running pro-Gardner ads in St. Louis.
Upon taking office, Gardner responded in kind by hiring a Soros-linked organization called the Vera Institute of Justice to implement an “aggressive” ideological reform of her office that included a radical “racial equity” agenda. As part of this “reform” effort, Gardner also flatly refused to prosecute most misdemeanors and even some felonies.
But while criminals had free reign, Gardner allocated copious resources to pursue a baseless prosecution of the state’s Republican Governor, Eric Greitens, in 2018. Gardner was ultimately forced to drop the case after revealing she lacked credible evidence for the charge. She admitted to lying “over 79 times” and engaging in “62 acts of gross misconduct” while waging her case and was reprimanded by the Missouri Supreme Court.
All of this politicization and dereliction of duty led to a more than 100% staff turnover rate within Gardner’s office over her first two years in power. As a result, heavier caseloads fell on the shoulders of more junior prosecutors. Dismissal rates surged as these novice lawyers struggled to keep their heads above water.
Because the Fifth Amendment guarantees accused criminals the right to a speedy trial, if a prosecutor fails to secure witnesses or testimony in a timely manner, the charges are dropped and need to be refiled. As Gardner has aggressively restricted cash bail, this delay means potential criminals can roam the streets until their trial date.
The tragic results of this policy were seen clearly late last month when a teenage volleyball star was struck by a vehicle and pinned against a parked car. Though the teenager survived the crash, she lost both legs due to the impact.
The vehicle’s driver was 21-year-old Daniel Riley, an accused criminal out on bond. In August 2020, Riley was arrested for robbery with a firearm and has been out on bond ever since.
An investigation by a local news station revealed that Riley was a repeat offender, with over 100 documented counts of breaking house arrest and other court orders. Even though Gardner’s office knew this at the time of sentencing, they still permitted Riley to be released.
For consistently failing to keep dangerous criminals like Riley behind bars, Gardner faces a bipartisan chorus of critics calling for her immediate resignation. Last month, Republican State Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced he had initiated legal proceedings to have Gardner removed from office, issuing a petition of “quo warranto” for failing to prosecute cases.
The petition asserts Gardner failed to prosecute pending cases, inform victims of the outcome of their legal cases, and “charge new cases referred to her by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.” The state Supreme Court has appointed a judge to preside over the matter.
Gardener has derided the petition as a “political witch hunt” and refused to step down.
With her office already deeply understaffed, fighting the petition will likely draw even more resources away from prosecuting crimes. In an effort to save her job, Gardner will likely expose her constituents to even more violence and chaos. But if the last five years are any indication, that will be of no concern to her.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.