JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Amid mounting calls for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney to resign, the Missouri Attorney General has issued an ultimatum for Kim Gardner: resign or face removal.
In a statement late Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Andrew Bailey said Gardner has until noon on Thursday, Feb. 23, to step down. If not, Bailey said he’ll start the process to remove her from office via a writ of quo warranto, accusing Gardner of neglecting her role as city prosecutor and demanding she prove her legal authority in court.
“It is time for the circuit attorney to go and for the rule of law and justice to prevail,” Bailey said in the statement.
The outrage against Gardner stems from an incident over the weekend, in which an out-of-town teenager suffered a life-changing injury due to a driver who was out on bond awaiting trial for armed robbery.
Janae Edmondson, 17, was visiting St. Louis with her family in order to participate in a volleyball tournament. The family was walking in downtown St. Louis around 8:40 p.m. last Saturday when a speeding driver failed to yield and collided with another vehicle. That second vehicle struck Edmondson.
One of Edmondson’s legs was severed in the crash and the other severely maimed. Her father’s quick thinking and military training allowed him to save her life, but both of her legs had to be amputated as a result. She remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Two people in the vehicle that was struck were also injured.
The driver who caused the crash, Daniel Riley, 21, was out on bond and under house arrest for an August 2020 robbery case, but had been ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device.
Riley’s case was supposed to go to trial last July, but was delayed. Court records show Riley violated his GPS monitoring device more than 50 times, including 10 times in the last month.
Riley was arrested and charged with second-degree assault in this crash. He pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Tuesday, but remains in custody after a judge denied him bond.
Earlier this week, the Circuit Attorney’s Office said it was well aware of Riley’s criminal history, but said the decision to allow him out on bond was the call of the judge on that particular case.
A spokesperson for the CAO added that the victim in Riley’s armed robbery case died, but the judge planned to move ahead with the trial in July 2022, and that’s why prosecutors said they weren’t ready. The spokesperson explained that the CAO then refiled the robbery charges to pursue the case without the victim.
In response to the Circuit Attorney’s Office accusation that it was the judge’s decision to keep Riley out on bond, a statement from the 22nd Circuit Court said judges are not notified of GPS violations, that only the attorneys of record are notified.
The crash adds to many waves of criticism and challenges facing Gardner’s office. She was previously disciplined last year amid allegations of concealing evidence in a high-profile case. Former Attorney General Eric Schmitt also accused her of concealing evidence in efforts to vacate the conviction of Lamar Johnson.
Governor Mike Parson has added his voice to those calling for justice for Edmondson’s family.
The criticism and calls to resign are not limited to Republicans. Earlier Wednesday, State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, whose district the crash occurred, said the Circuit Attorney’s Office “needs a 180 turnover.”
“I think there are a lot of folks that support her that have been silent, but this is one of many fumbles of the ball,” he shared.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a longtime Gardner ally, said the prosecutor has “lost the trust of the people” and “needs to do some soul-searching” before deciding her next move.
A spokesperson from the Circuit Attorney’s Office released the following statement, in part:
First, I want to express my personal deepest sympathy to the victim in this case and her family. I will ensure my office will put all of our resources into holding Daniel Riley accountable and providing support for the young woman and her family on her road to recovery.
This situation is a tragedy for our community and our criminal justice system. It’s important for the community to understand the prosecutor’s role in this process.
On November 6, 2020, when the 2020 robbery case against Mr. Riley was filed, the Court set the bond as personal recognizance with GPS. On December 12, 2021, prosecutors asked for a bond revocation, which was denied by Judge Hettenbach.
On August 10, 2022, Mr. Riley was again released on personal recognizance and GPS, against the state’s wishes. January 2023, prosecutors asked the court for a hearing date to address Mr. Riley’s bond. There was no response.
Judges have the sole authority to determine the bond conditions of a defendant. In this matter, prosecutors asked on several occasions for higher bonds, and those requests were denied.