Editorial: Circuit attorney's frivolous lawsuit accuses detractors of vast, racist plot.

Editorial: Circuit attorney's frivolous lawsuit accuses detractors of vast, racist plot.

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St. Louis prosecutor: Racist interests try to force her out

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner speaks in St. Louis Monday, the same day she filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the city, the local police union and others of a coordinated and racist conspiracy aimed at forcing her out of office.

(AP Photo/Jim Salter)

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner’s federal civil suit against a host of allegedly racist, anti-progressive co-conspirators is, to say it politely, a long shot. Considering her already-substantial legal problems stemming from a special prosecutor’s investigation of her office, she’ll be lucky if she doesn’t face professional sanction for wasting the court’s time with Monday’s 32-page filing.

By invoking the Ku Klux Klan in the introductory sentence of her lawsuit, Gardner signaled how far she’s willing to go in exploiting racial divisions to explain her current legal and political predicament. Gardner asserts that a vast conspiracy of actors — including the city government, the police union, and Gerard Carmody, a court-appointed special prosecutor investigating her office — “have mobilized to thwart” her voter-mandated quest to “redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color.”

Are racist elements present within some of the entities cited as defendants in her lawsuit? Absolutely. As Gardner correctly noted, several St. Louis police officers were cited in a 2019 expose by the Plain View Project as having posted racist and xenophobic items on Facebook, several dating back to 2014. None of the postings cited in Gardner’s lawsuit mentions her or her office.

Defendant Jeff Roorda, the police union’s controversial business manager, is friends on Facebook with several of the officers and former officers cited by the Plain View Project. Naming him as defendant on that basis is quite a stretch. Roorda often publicly criticizes Gardner, but even when he exercises his First Amendment rights in his own especially obnoxious way, that doesn’t mean he’s violating her civil rights.

Elective office in St. Louis is a hardball sport, often involving harsh and unfair criticism. Did Gardner somehow think she deserved a pass?

The union has a longstanding practice of defending officers accused of civil rights violations. Gardner will have a difficult time in court trying to prove her rights were violated because the union criticized her publicly or took actions she disagreed with.

When a St. Louis judge appointed Carmody to investigate alleged misconduct by Gardner’s office, the circuit attorney should have expected Carmody to pursue the case in the aggressive way he has. If Gardner wants to argue that the judge had a conflict of interest in appointing Carmody, that might be something for the state bar association to investigate — but it’s hardly proof of a racist conspiracy.

Besides, William Don Tisaby, an ex-FBI agent hired by Gardner to investigate alleged sexual misconduct by former Gov. Eric Greitens, has been indicted on perjury and evidence-tampering charges. The investigation is ongoing into whether Gardner failed to report Tisaby’s actions.

Her lawsuit was filed hours before Gardner hosted a meeting of seven progressive minority prosecutors from around the country. Conspiracy-minded observers might see this as blatant showboating on her part. Sounds like grounds for yet another court-clogging, waste-of-time lawsuit.

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