Vindication? McCloskeys pardoned as Gardner twists in scandals

Mike Parson made good on his promise to render Kim Gardner’s work moot on the McCloskeys. Late yesterday, the Missouri governor announced full pardons for both Mark and Patricia McCloskey over charges related to a standoff with protesters at the edge of their property:

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday announced that he made good on his promise to pardon a couple who gained notoriety for pointing guns at social justice demonstrators as they marched past the couple’s home in a luxury St. Louis enclave last year.

Parson, a Republican, on Friday pardoned Mark McCloskey, who pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750, and Patricia McCloskey, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000.

Even at the time of their plea, the McCloskeys remained defiant. They declared after the hearing that they would have done it again under the same circumstances, and their attorney claimed vindication on their behalf on that basis:

“Mark McCloskey has publicly stated that if he were involved in the same situation, he would have the exact same conduct,” the McCloskeys’ lawyer Joel Schwartz said Tuesday. “He believes that the pardon vindicates that conduct.”

Let’s hope it’s not the exact same conduct. Their firearm-handling discipline left something to be desired for one thing, and it’s still arguable whether the protesters ever came onto their property. Patricia McCloskey later claimed her pistol was unloaded, which if true would have meant she potentially escalated the situation without any real means of self-defense.

However, one does not have to refrain from criticizing these points while still maintaining that Gardner’s prosecution was a politicized travesty and that the McCloskeys never should have been charged under the circumstances, let alone with felonies. Parson understood that immediately, which is why he pledged to pardon them if Gardner persisted. After the plea deal, Parson could have dropped it, but he did the right thing in keeping his word.

And what about Gardner? Her full-court press on the McCloskeys stands in stark contrast to the incompetent neglect Gardner has had in at least one murder case. Fox News reported last night that the neglect goes far beyond that:

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner was already under fire after three murder cases fell apart on her watch and records show that the turnover of prosecutors in her office is greater than 100%.

Now, records show her office has been dropping felony cases at a rate more than double the years before she took office.

Records from the clerk of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in Missouri show before Gardner took office, the percentage of cases listed as Nolle Prosequi – or no prosecution – averaged 13.5% starting with 2008. The lowest was in 2013, when only 9.8% of the cases were dropped. The highest was 15.5% in 2015.

Gardner took over as Circuit Attorney in January of 2017. The jump in no prosecution is first seen in 2018: 22.6%. The following year it hit 31.5%. Last year, 35.8% of the cases had been dropped and by July of this year, 34.4% of felony cases charged in St. Louis were dismissed.

That more-than-doubled the average rate of Nolle Prosequi cases up from 13.56% to 27.84%.

Gardner also has begun punting death-penalty cases to the Attorney General’s office, claiming a “conflict of interest.” KSDK also points out the dismissal rate and how it differs from the surrounding jurisdictions:

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has asked the Missouri Attorney General to prosecute three high-profile death penalty cases – a move that comes amid increasing criticism of how her office is handling cases. …

Assistant Circuit Attorney Chris Hinckley wrote in court documents that Gardner’s office has a potential conflict of interest in the cases, but the documents are under seal. So it’s unclear what the potential conflict is. …

The I-Team also discovered the number of cases that have been dismissed during Gardner’s tenure continues to grow and is almost double the rate of dismissals in surrounding jurisdictions, according to the National Center for State Courts.

The organization shows 33% of felony cases filed in St. Louis city’s circuit court get dismissed. In St. Louis County, 15% of cases get dismissed. In Jefferson County, it’s 14%. Seventeen percent of cases in St. Charles County get dismissed.

The implication here is clear: Gardner’s only interested in prosecuting cases that she can highlight in her election campaigns. Having a third of the cases her own office brings dismissed shows that either Gardner’s team is incompetent at discerning charges for indictments or that she’s not terribly interested in enforcing the law, except when the defendants’ names rhyme with Schmischloskey.

The city of St. Louis elected Gardner, so they have to figure out how to get rid of their aggressively incompetent and neglectful chief prosecutor. Perhaps next time, they’ll take that office more seriously at election time.