St. Louis Prosecutor Alleges Racist Conspiracy; Sues City Under a Law Passed in 1871 to Fight the KKK

Maria Perez SAVE THIS
Left to right, Edwin Furlow, Lenna Gilmore and Janey Archey, show signs of support outside the Mel Carnahan Courthouse in St. Louis on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, as several African-American female prosecutors from around the country and local activists rallied in support of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner in her efforts to reform the criminal justice system and her lawsuit against the St. Louis police union and the city of St. Louis among others. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

St. Louis Prosecutor Kimberly Gardner has filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis and the local police union alleging the city has conspired to prevent her from doing her job.

Gardner filed the civil rights lawsuit in Federal District Court in St. Louis on Monday, according to the suit which was viewed by The North Star. The lawsuit states that the city prosecutor is suing the local Police Officers Association, it’s business manager Jeff Roorda, and special prosecutor Gerard Carmody, who began investigating Gardner in 2018, according to The New York Times. 

Gardner, who is the first Black circuit attorney in St. Louis, cited a little-used federal law that was passed following the Civil War known as the Ku Klux Klan act, stating that her rights had been violated.

Quick facts about the lawsuit

  • The suit alleges that the police union and the other defendants “thwart and impede her efforts to establish equal treatment under law for all St. Louis citizens at every turn.” It also claims that the defendants want “to remove her from the position to which she was duly elected.”
  • In the suit, Gardner notes the city’s “long history of racial inequality and prejudice in its criminal justice system generally, and within its police force particularly.” The lawsuit states that as of December 31, 2018, the police division in St. Louis are made up of 66% of white officers and 30% of Black officers.
  • The suit lists the history of racism in the city, the city’s police division and the local police officers association. Data from the Missouri State Attorney General’s office found that Black citizens are “overrepresented in the number of traffic stops by the Police Division.” In 2017, Black citizens were 97% more likely to be stopped by the police division than white people, and in 2018, it was nearly 120%. 
  • The lawsuit also mentions the report released by the watchdog group the Plainview Project, which found that current and former St. Louis police officers made racist and anti-Muslim comments on social media. Emily Baker-White, the founder of the project, told the St. Louis-Post Dispatch in June that the report listed 43 accounts tied to St. Louis police officers. At the time, 22 of the officers were currently officers of the Metropolitan Police Department of St. Louis and 21 of the posts were made by former officers.
  • The lawsuit claims that Gardner was elected in 2016 as the city’s prosecutor “to redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color.”

What is the Ku Klux Klan Act?

  • The Ku Klux Klan act was passed In April of 1871, and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant to help enforce the 14th amendment. The amendment defined citizenship and guaranteed due process and equal protection to all, including Black people, but groups like the KKK were still threatening Black citizens, according to the U.S. House of Representatives. The act allowed the President to intervene in former Confederate states if civil and political rights were being violated, the website stated. 
  • The act stems from the Enforcement Act of 1870, which prohibited Southern sheriffs from stopping Black people from voting. But the law did “not diminish harassment of black voters in some areas,” according to the U.S. Senate. 
  • The act was created to end violence and protect the civil rights of four million freed enslaved people. It is now used in lawsuits that involve police brutality or voting violations, according to The New York Times. 
  • And according to the lawsuit, the act was established following the Civil War to address “a racially-motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all.” The suit also states that the act “was adopted to address precisely this scenario: a racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all.” 

Who is Kimberly Gardner?

Gardner worked as a prosecutor in St. Louis in the circuit attorney’s office up until 2010, according to the Riverfront Times. She returned to public office two years later as a representative in the 77th district, according to the publication. 

In 2016, Gardner won a four-way Democratic primary race for circuit attorney with 46.6 percent of the vote, The St. Louis American reported. She ran unopposed in November and became the city’s first Black circuit attorney. While in office, Gardner has been at odds with the St. Louis Police department. During her time as top prosecutor, Gardner created a list of more than 50 officers with credibility issues and who were not allowed to bring cases of prosecutions to her office, the Associated Press previously reported

Gardner also indicted the state’s former governor Eric Greitens, who resigned from office following a scandal involving an explicit photo he had taken of his hairdresser, whom he was having an affair with, without her permission, The New York Times previously reported. Gardner later dismissed the case. 

The top prosecutor was also investigated during Greiten’s scandal case. It was announced last year that a grand jury looked at evidence suggesting perjury was committed by Gardner’s team during Greiten’s case, KMOX reported. Gardner denied that she did anything wrong.

What they’re saying

In a statement, the police officers association criticized Gardner and called the lawsuit “the last act of a desperate woman.” The association is also calling for Gardner to step down or be removed from office. A spokesperson from the mayor’s office told The New York Times: “The city of St. Louis vehemently denies what it considers to be meritless allegations levied against it by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. The city fully expects to be vindicated.”

Gardner told The Times the lawsuit was filed to make sure that she can implement reform and continue to do her job for the city. 

“We’re not going to let fear and injustice stop the reforms that are needed,” Gardner told the publication. “This is also about the continuing attacks on progressive prosecutors, not just in St. Louis, but around this country.”

 

 


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including NewsweekJuvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.

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