Following a crash that left a teenage Tennessee volleyball player from Tennessee with both of her legs amputated and another driver who had repeatedly broken the terms of his bond on prior charges injured, the Missouri attorney general called for the resignation of the elected prosecutor in St. Louis on Wednesday.
As a result of the case, Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has come under increased fire for not putting the driver in jail despite court records showing more than 50 breaches of the release terms.
Gardner must resign by Thursday at noon, according to Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey, or he will endeavor to have her removed from office.
“Instead of protecting victims, Circuit Attorney Gardner is creating them,” Bailey said in a statement. “My office will do everything in its power to restore order and eliminate the chaos in St. Louis caused by Kim Gardner’s neglect of her office.”
Others, including Democrats, joined in the criticism of Gardner. Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, a Republican, said Gardner should resign, calling her “incompetent and grossly unfit to hold her office.” Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher also urged Gardner to step down.
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Tishaura O. Jones, a Democrat and mayor of St. Louis stated that Gardner had “lost the faith of the people,” but she did not demand that she step down.
Janae Edmondson, a 16-year-old volleyball player in town for a tournament, was hurt on Saturday night when the collision trapped her as she and her family returned to a hotel in downtown St. Louis. The high school senior from Smyrna, Tennessee, was in stable condition, according to her coach, but she was dealing with issues that would require weeks in the hospital.
A GoFundMe effort to aid her family had amassed more than $343,000 as of Wednesday night. According to the police, unlicensed driver Daniel Riley, 21, was speeding and failed to yield at an intersection when his car impacted another vehicle, which struck Edmondson. Riley was free on bail following the dismissal and re-filing of a robbery case from 2020 last year.
According to court records, which show he has broken the terms of his house arrest and violated bond at least seven times since February 1, his bond offenses include allowing his GPS monitor to die. Because prosecutors never submitted a motion to revoke Riley’s bond, court authorities said they were unaware that Riley had broken it.
After Riley’s lawyer, Daniel Diemer, pushed for a lower bond, claiming Riley had no substantial criminal history other than the robbery accusation, a judge on Tuesday ordered Riley held without bond. Edmondson’s parents said at the same court that her father used tourniquets made of belts and his military expertise to stop the bleeding until paramedics came.
Gardner, in a statement Wednesday night, said Riley was released on bond in August “against the state’s wishes.” She said her office sought a bond hearing in January but got no response from the court.
“Judges have the sole authority to determine the bond conditions of a defendant,” Gardner said. “Bond violations and decisions do not solely rest on the shoulders of prosecutors. In this matter, prosecutors asked several times for higher bonds, and those requests were denied.”
The Missouri Legislature is considering a bill that would empower Governor Mike Parson to designate a special prosecutor to handle violent crimes in St. Louis. Supporters of the idea argue that Gardner has not been aggressive enough in tackling crime during her time in office. At a rally earlier this month in Jefferson City, Gardner’s supporters claimed that the attempt to remove her from office was racially motivated.
2016 was Gardner’s first election. She accused then-Gov. Eric Greitens of taking a compromising photo of a lady during an extramarital affair in 2018 and charged him with criminal invasion of privacy. Republican Greitens charged her with making a political attack. Greitens resigned in June 2018, but the case was eventually dropped. He was also under investigation by Missouri lawmakers.
Examination of the case resulted in the conviction of Gardner’s investigator and punishment for her. William Tisaby, an investigator, entered a guilty plea to tampering with evidence in March. Gardner accepted a settlement with the Missouri Office of Disciplinary Counsel a month later in which she admitted to withholding papers from the Greitens investigation and making the errorn assertion that all materials had been given to Greitens’ attorneys. She was reprimanded in writing.
She drew the ire of St. Louis police in 2019 when she placed dozens of officers on an “exclusion list,” prohibiting them from bringing cases. The list was developed after a national group accused the officers of posting racist and anti-Muslim comments on social media.
Gardner filed a lawsuit in 2020, accusing the city, a police union, and others of a planned, racial plot to remove her from office. The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was intended to counter efforts to deny the civil rights of racial minorities, was allegedly violated, according to the lawsuit.