Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the personal injury attorneys who became darlings of the right-wing fever swamps by waving guns around at peaceful protesters in St. Louis last year, pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor charges. This is the right outcome to a case that was never really felony-charge material. But this shouldn’t be the end of it. After pleading to a crime, Mark McCloskey bragged about that crime and vowed to do it again if the same circumstances arose. If that’s not grounds for disbarment, what is?
The McCloskeys’ sorry saga should by now be familiar. Last June, protesters marching toward then-Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home crossed in front of the McCloskeys’ Central West End mansion. The couple appeared on the lawn, barefoot and wielding his-and-her firearms (respectively, an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and a small handgun), and confronted the crowd as it walked by. Mark McCloskey’s subsequent claim that his home was under assault was nonsense, as video and witness accounts confirmed. It was only the level-headedness of the protesters — in marked contrast to the provocative antics of the couple — that prevented things from turning violent.
That kind of behavior should have consequences, but St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s filing of felony charges was a bridge too far. Gardner has a history of taking on cases that appear designed more for headlines than convictions, and this one had the look of a publicity stunt. As if to prove it, Gardner’s campaign referenced the felony charges in fundraising material, prompting a judge to boot her from the case and appoint a special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Richard G. Callahan.
It was Callahan who secured the misdemeanor plea bargain from the couple last week. Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault, Patricia McCloskey to second-degree harassment. They will pay $750 and $2,000, respectively, in fines, and won’t do jail time.
As the Post-Dispatch’s Joel Currier reported Thursday, Mark McCloskey was anything but contrite after the plea. “The prosecutor dropped every charge except for alleging that I purposely placed other people in imminent risk of physical injury, right, and I sure as heck did,” McCloskey said on the courthouse steps. “That’s what the guns were there for and I’d do it again any time the mob approaches me. … If that’s a crime in Missouri, by God I did it, and I’d do it again.”
It’s not hard to figure out the game here — McCloskey is seeking Missouri’s GOP nomination to the U.S. Senate, with a campaign based on exactly this kind of bluster — but it has no place in the legal profession. The McCloskeys’ plea, his comments, and the couple’s long, well-documented history of abusing the legal system to go after neighbors and relatives should provide plenty of fodder for a Missouri Bar Association reconsideration of their professional standing.