Hours before facing another hearing exploring her official conduct, a Missouri prosecutor suddenly left office on May 16 instead of waiting until June 1.
“Effective immediately, Kimberly M. Gardner will end her service as the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney,” a tweet from her office said.
That announcement came shortly before a court hearing in Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s attempt to persuade a judge to oust her from office. Bailey continued that battle despite Gardner’s resignation announcement earlier this month.
His reasoning: “While Gardner has announced her intention to resign on June 1, 2023, she has not yet resigned,” Bailey said in a May 15 court filing. He added that Gardner had left open the potential to change her mind and remain in office beyond the stated departure date.
However, Gardner’s May 4 resignation letter expressly stated: “It is with a heavy heart but steadfast resolve that I am resigning my position as your Circuit Attorney, effective June 1st.”
Visiting Judge Thomas Chapman briefly convened a hearing in the Bailey-Gardner case on May 16; both sides agreed to put all related matters on hold for a week. Deputy Attorney General William Corrigan said it was likely that the case would become moot because of Gardner’s decision to vacate her post right away.
However, he said the situation was “unprecedented” because Gardner’s immediate departure left the city without a prosecutor.
Bailey’s office was informed of Gardner’s decision to leave the office less than two hours before the hearing. The situation was “very evolving and fluid,” Corrigan said during a live broadcast of the hearing on KSDK-TV in St. Louis.
Prior to Gardner’s departure, Gov. Mike Parson received 18 applications from people interested in fulfilling the circuit attorney’s role, KSDK reported.
Last week, Gardner announced she had been working with St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell to ensure a “smooth transition of all cases.”
No further comment would be made “until the transition is firmly in place and discussed with the courts,” a tweet from her office said.
Her departure comes just days after she filed a motion to set a conviction aside for a man who claims he was wrongfully imprisoned for 33 years in a fatal shooting.
That is just one of many issues that Gardner’s successor will handle.
Bailey has stated that Gardner’s office has been understaffed and demoralized for some time. While he blames her for a failure of leadership, Gardner has complained that her office was underfunded in an attempt to sabotage her.
Gardner is among dozens of American prosecutors who reportedly received financial support from billionaire George Soros. He advocates criminal justice reform to improve fairness. But critics allege that Soros-backed prosecutors allow criminals to go unpunished, fostering lawlessness.
In her resignation letter, Gardner said she had the citizens’ best interests at heart.
“Unfortunately, since the time I took office, as the first black female prosecutor in the state, people outside of the city have targeted me and, to advance their goals, have also targeted the fundamental rights of the city’s voters,” she wrote.
Gardner said she was the victim of “a coordinated, long-standing strategy to undermine me and my efforts to make the City of St. Louis safer and fairer.”
“Since Day One of my tenure as Circuit Attorney, I have experienced attacks on my reforms, on my judgment, on my integrity, on my prosecutorial discretion, on my responsibility to direct the limited resources of this office, and more,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, court records also reveal that Gardner, whose duties require full-time work under the law, had been enrolled in nursing classes since 2021. Bailey took issue with that.
On April 27, when Gardner faced a contempt-of-court hearing for her office’s failure to show up for a criminal case, Gardner was inside the Family Care Health Center in St. Louis. Instead of attending the contempt hearing, Gardner sent her lawyer, Michael Downey, and a representative from her office.
An investigator from Bailey’s office reported seeing a city-owned vehicle, issued to Gardner, parked at the center, court records show. The investigator witnessed her getting into the car and driving away.
During the April 27 hearing, Judge Michael Noble called Gardner’s office “a rudderless ship of chaos.” He found reason to advance an accusation of “indirect criminal contempt” against her; Noble said he would appoint a special prosecutor to handle the matter.
It was unclear whether Gardner’s immediate departure from office would affect that case. It’s also unknown whether Gardner could face any additional action relating to her nursing coursework. The Epoch Times has requested clarification from Bailey’s office.
Gardner’s office earlier this month issued a statement defending her nursing activities. The statement said she became a registered nurse before becoming a prosecutor in 2017 because criminal justice and health care issues can intertwine.
“She continues to stay current with classes at Saint Louis University to add to her training and advance her mission at the [circuit attorney’s office],” the statement said. “The Circuit Attorney has done this at great personal cost to her time with her family and loved ones. Any suggestion that she is not fully committed to her duties as Circuit Attorney is blatantly false.”
Gardner first came under fire in February after a visiting teen athlete, Janae Edmondson, suffered the loss of both legs. An alleged probation violator is accused of causing the crash that injured her.
That case sparked community outrage and served as the impetus for Bailey to seek Gardner’s ouster.
Gardner, a Democrat, alleged that Bailey, a Republican, was targeting her as a political stunt. Bailey retorted that he must protect the public from alleged “willful neglect” of Gardner’s prosecutorial duties.
He asserts that Janae’s case was an example of the prosecutor shirking her responsibilities; he said the driver who hit Janae would never have been behind the wheel if Gardner had done her job and gotten him locked up.
But Gardner retorted that courts either ignored or turned down her office’s attempts to crack down on the motorist’s alleged probation violations.
After a two-week hospital stay, Janae returned to her home in Smyrna, Tenn., to continue her recovery and rehabilitation.
According to her GoFundMe.com page, Janae graduated from high school on May 13; more than $810,000 has been raised to cover medical and related costs, about $90,000 short of the fundraising goal.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.