Embattled St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner was absent from a legislative hearing on a measure that would allow an appointment of her replacement in the prosecution of violent crime.
“She actually didn’t show up, which I thought was kind of incredible,” Missouri Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-District 34, told The Lion.
“That you’d have a bill that’s targeting the jurisdiction of the circuit attorney and is trying to hold her accountable for her failures on controlling violent crime and she didn’t even bother to show up to the Judiciary Committee to testify before the Senate to defend her record,” added Luetkemeyer.
Gardner is feeling the heat after crime in the city has spun out of control on her watch, culminating in the tragic double amputation of a teenage volleyball player who was hit by a suspected armed robber who had over 50 bail violations.
The bill, HB 301, would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor for areas which suffer from violent crime above a specified threshold, which currently only includes Gardner’s St. Louis jurisdiction. It was passed by the House and heard Monday by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, chaired by Luetkemeyer.
Instead of testifying herself, Gardner sent a political activist to speak to the committee, Redditt Hudson, a non-lawyer who specializes in “equity” matters and who now works as a diversion specialist for the Circuit Attorney’s office.
Previously Hudson worked for the NAACP, where he “catalogued Human rights abuses in St. Louis City jails.”
Diversion specialists typically work to try to keep offenders out of jail and place them into special programs like house arrest or drug treatment centers.
At the Senate hearing, Hudson attempted to defend Gardner in the case involving the injured volleyball player by blaming the judge – a narrative that has been discredited.
An investigation by the local NBC News station, which scoured court documents, found no evidence to back up the assertion that Gardner asked the judge in the case to revoke bail.
The latest embarrassment for Gardner comes after a chaotic press conference by her office that degenerated into racial finger pointing by her supporters when reporters asked questions.
St. Louis must deal with the violent crime which is threatening families, Luetkemeyer told The Lion. And if the city won’t do it, then the state will step in.
“The hope of this is that if Ms. Gardner remains in office, that the governor would have the ability to appoint a special prosecutor to handle violent criminal cases which she, up to this point, has refused to deal with in the city of St. Louis,” he said.
“She has caused St. Louis to have – on her watch – the second highest per capita homicide rate in the United States of any city in the country,” he added.
Luetkemeyer expects the legislation will have enough votes in the Senate to pass once it’s out of committee.