St. Louis prosecutor chided by Trump wins primary race

St. Louis Circuit attorney Kim Gardner, whose work has been praised by civil rights activists and criticized by President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders, held a challenge from a former homicide prosecutor in Tuesday’s primaries.

Gardner, 44, defeated Mary Pat Carl in Democratic Elementary School. She is heavily favored over Republican Daniel Zdrodowski in November as the majority of voters in St. Louis are Democratic.

Gardner has shaken the St. Louis criminal justice establishment since her election in 2016, making her the city’s first female attorney for Black Circuit. She initiated reforms that included the use of diversion programs in place of incarceration, halted the prosecution of low-level marijuana crimes, and drew the wrath of police officers when she developed an “exclusion list” of officials raised over unspecified credibility concerns cannot act as principal witnesses.

But it was her decision to bring charges on two high profile cases that drew Conservative contempt.

In 2018, Gardner accused the then government. Eric Greitens, a Republican, with a privacy crime. The prosecution accused Greitens of taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair and threatening to publish it if she spoke of their relationship.

Greitens admitted the affair but denied having committed a crime. The charges were later dropped. But Greitens, who also faced unrelated ethical grievances, resigned in June 2018.

Gardner again received national attention last month when she accused a white couple, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, of illegally using a gun to display guns when protesters marched near their home.

Several hundred protesters marched to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home on June 28 as they turned onto a private road where the McCloskeys lived. He came out with a semi-automatic rifle and she had a semi-automatic pistol, according to an explanation of the likely cause.

Gardner said issuing weapons during an otherwise peaceful protest risks bloodshed. The McCloskeys said they felt threatened.

Trump criticized Gardner on Twitter and in interviews. Republican Governor Mike Parson said he will likely apologize to the couple if they are convicted. Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri asked the US Department of Justice to investigate Gardner. Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt asked a judge to dismiss the charges.

St. Louis has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, and this year the murders have risen again. Critics have accused Gardner of wasting time and money on high profile cases instead of doing more to put murderers behind bars.

Despite the criticism, Gardner also had a lot of support. The city’s black community in particular has praised its reforms and willingness to take over the police, who they believe have been wrongly cracking black residents for years.

Gardner has long claimed she was the victim of racial attacks. In January, she filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city government, major police union and others of co-ordinated and racist conspiracy to force her out of office. The lawsuit also accused “entrenched interests” of deliberately obstructing their efforts to change racist practices.

The 43-year-old Carl also lost to Gardner in the 2016 Democratic primary. She was the city’s leading murder prosecutor at the time, and held that role for the first 10 months of Gardner’s tenure before stepping down. She had promised to focus more on violent crime.

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