Pressure grows on circuit attorney to resign after Black teenager critically hurt in crash

Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner failed to prosecute a man now accused of hitting the Black, 17-year-old volleyball player, despite having violated the terms of his bond at least 50 times.

The St. Louis circuit attorney is under increasing pressure to resign after her inaction led to a Black teenager suffering critical injuries in a car accident.

Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner, first elected in 2016 on a promise of reforming the criminal justice system, failed to prosecute a robbery suspect now accused of hitting the 17-year-old volleyball player, despite his violating the terms of his bond at least 50 times before the car crash, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones contends Gardner “lost the trust of the people.”

Kimberly M. Gardner
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner (above) is being asked to resign, even by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, who says Gardner has “lost the trust of the people.” (Photo: Screenshot/ 2 St. Louis)

“This incident and others have highlighted the fact that some improvements need to be made in her office,” Jones said Wednesday, according to The Post-Dispatch. “And she really needs to do some soul-searching of whether or not she wants to continue as circuit attorney, because she’s lost the trust of the people.”

Jones made her remarks the same day Caleb Rowden, president of the Missouri Senate, demanded Gardner’s resignation, calling her “incompetent and grossly unfit” to hold her position.

Following the accident Saturday, Janae Edmondson of Tennessee, who got trapped between two vehicles, had to have both legs amputated. Her condition remains critical. She was visiting the city for a volleyball match at America’s Center.

Daniel Riley, 21 — on bond for a 2020 robbery case dropped and refiled last year — is accused of causing the crash, by allegedly speeding through a street downtown and failing to yield at an intersection. He collided with a Chevrolet Malibu and hit a parked vehicle, The Post-Dispatch reported Monday.

Court documents show that his bond violations, among them at least seven since Feb. 1, included allowing his GPS monitor to die and straying outside the boundaries of his house arrest.

Despite Riley’s lawyer’s plea for a bond reduction and argument that Riley had no prior significant criminal convictions other than the robbery charge, a judge ordered Riley held without bond in connection with the crash on Saturday. His attorney further claimed that no accident reconstruction report demonstrated Riley was speeding.

Gardner has consistently come under fire for the dysfunction and understaffing in her office that has impeded its sufficiency. Jones believes errors made by Gardner’s office have damaged the city’s reputation. She connected the missteps to ongoing efforts in the state capital, Jefferson City, to transfer control of city police to the state, a move Jones and other city and religious leaders strongly oppose.

Gardner’s office would lose some authority if a measure currently being considered by the Missouri Legislature allowed Gov. Mike Parson to designate a special prosecutor to oversee violent crimes in St. Louis. The Rev. Darryl Gray and other St. Louis religious leaders met with Parson on Tuesday to voice their opposition to the proposed legislation. Politicians, however, expressed shock at the disclosures.

“We have to start by mobilizing voters in this city to remove (Gardner) from office in the next election,” St. Louis Alderman Tom Oldenburg said, according to The Post-Dispatch, calling it “despicable” that a teen lost her legs because of the failure to file a motion. “We have to make sure people pay attention to the ineptitude of that office.”

While she declined to say whether she had directly lost faith in Gardner, Mayor Jones said it was disturbing that the circuit attorney’s office released a statement Tuesday night calling for a stop to “finger-pointing.”

The mayor said ensuring a situation like this doesn’t happen again is crucial.

“Accountability isn’t pointing fingers,” Jones said, The Post-Dispatch reported. “Accountability is when something goes wrong, you take accountability for it and say, ‘This is my mess-up’ and ‘How can we work together to fix it?'”

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