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St. Louis circuit attorney denies misconduct charges stemming from Greitens probe

St. Louis circuit attorney denies misconduct charges stemming from Greitens probe

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Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner on Election Day

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner stands outside Yeatman Middle School in St. Louis on Nov. 3. 

Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel has accused St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner of professional misconduct stemming from her office’s 2018 investigation of former Gov. Eric Greitens, according to records obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

An ethics investigation resulted in allegations of professional misconduct against Gardner, alleging she concealed details about the Greitens investigation from her own team regarding interview notes with witnesses, failed to disclose potentially favorable evidence to Greitens’ attorneys, and misrepresented facts about evidence to the court, defense lawyers and ethics investigators.

The allegations are outlined in pleadings filed March 1 by Chief Disciplinary Counsel Alan Pratzel and sealed until Tuesday after Gardner had time to respond to the charges. The Missouri Supreme Court Advisory Committee and Legal Ethics Counsel provided the Post-Dispatch with records of the case Wednesday.

Gardner’s lawyer, Michael Downey, responded April 30, denying the claims against her and calling them “another attempt by Ms. Gardner’s political enemies — largely from outside St. Louis — to remove Ms. Gardner and thwart the systemic reforms she champions.”

Gardner didn’t hide her role in the investigation and produced all notes taken during witness interviews, Downey said.

Gardner’s office also released a statement this week saying she complied with the law during the Greitens investigation.

“Despite several investigations attempting to uncover illegal wrongdoing by her office in this case, none has ever been found,” the statement said. “We are confident that a full review of the facts will show that the Circuit Attorney has not violated the ethical standards of the State of Missouri.”

The complaint against Gardner says she has no previous disciplinary history, is in good standing with the Missouri Bar and has held her license since Sept. 29, 2004.

A disciplinary panel will hear Gardner’s case and make a recommendation to the Missouri Supreme Court, which could issue a reprimand, suspension or revocation of her law license. The court could also decide to take no action. A hearing for Gardner’s case hasn’t been set.

Records say Gardner sought to seal or stay the disciplinary proceedings, arguing that it would interfere with a pending case and impair her ability to run the circuit attorney’s office.

The disciplinary case against Gardner delves into allegations in a 2018 ethics complaint filed by Greitens’ lawyers that Gardner and William Don Tisaby, the ex-FBI agent she hired to investigate the governor, misled the defense and the court about notes taken during interviews with Greitens’ accuser.

Greitens was indicted in February 2018 on a felony count of invasion of privacy that alleged that before his run for Missouri governor, he snapped a compromising photo of a woman and threatened to release it if she exposed their affair. Greitens denied that.

The disciplinary complaint against Gardner says she failed to correct false and sworn statements by members of her team about the existence and disclosure of notes taken in interviews with Greitens’ accuser.

Gardner’s response rejects those claims, saying Greitens’ defense team “successfully” shifted focus from Greitens’ criminal conduct to Gardner’s handling of evidence. Greitens’ defense team, her lawyer wrote, “overwhelmed Ms. Gardner’s office by dissecting and scrutinizing its investigation process and production of investigative records in an unparalleled fashion,” Downey wrote.

“If there were minor mistakes made,” Downey wrote, “they were not deliberate, they did not undermine justice, and they did not deny the defendant a fair trial.”

Gardner abruptly dismissed the invasion of privacy case against Greitens during jury selection in May 2018 when faced with having to testify about her involvement in the investigation. She later brokered Greitens’ resignation in exchange for dropping felony computer tampering charges related to a donor list for the ex-governor’s St. Louis-based charity, The Mission Continues.

The ethics complaint Greitens’ lawyers filed against Gardner alleged she conspired with Tisaby to lie in sworn testimony about the investigation and that she also solicited false testimony from him. Their complaint also alleged Gardner failed to turn over evidence to defense lawyers that might have been favorable to Greitens.

Tisaby was later indicted on multiple counts of perjury and evidence tampering after a monthslong grand jury investigation that sought a range of electronic records from the circuit attorney’s office servers. Gardner’s office resisted search warrants for records but was ultimately ordered to turn them over.

Tisaby has denied charges that he lied in a March 2018 deposition about various parts of the Greitens probe and said he was the target of a racially motivated grand jury investigation. His case is still pending in St. Louis Circuit Court.

Gardner recently filed a witness tampering charge against the lead St. Louis police sergeant tasked with investigating Tisaby and her office as part of an unrelated sex assault case involving two other city police officers. The police sergeant has accused Gardner of political revenge and has sought her disqualification from the tampering case.

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