A Missouri judge on Thursday moved to hold a George Soros-bankrolled prosecutor in “indirect criminal contempt” after she and her subordinates failed to show up for multiple court dates, lambasting her office as a “rudderless ship of chaos.”
Judge Michael Noble announced he will appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the contempt case against St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, the city’s top prosecutor, and Assistant Circuit Attorney Chris Desilets after no one from Gardner’s office appeared at a trial and subsequent hearing in an assault case involving the wounding of an 11-year-old girl.
“It appears that Ms. Gardner has complete indifference and a conscious disregard for the judicial process,” Noble said during a hearing to address the no-shows. “There is sufficient evidence of disdain and disrespect for the judicial process to determine that both Ms. Gardner and Mr. Desilets’ conduct support a finding of indirect criminal contempt. Furthermore, any attorney’s violation of a court’s order constitutes an intentional disobedience and shows a clear intent to disregard the power and authority of the judicial system process.”
The contempt case comes as Gardner, already mired in allegations of negligence and misconduct, is facing a legal effort by Missouri’s attorney general to fire her for allegedly neglecting her duties. Gardner is one of the first progressive prosecutors whom Soros, a liberal billionaire and Democrat mega-donor, bankrolled in 2016 and again for her re-election in 2020. She announced last month that she’ll seek a third term.
Noble began Thursday’s hearing by noting that Gardner wasn’t there and sent Assistant Circuit Attorney Rob Huq as her designee. However, Huq struggled to answer questions about the assault case when questioned by Noble.
“I asked for a designee, but you sent someone who didn’t have the ability to stand in Ms. Gardner’s shoes,” said Noble.
The assault case over which Gardner may be held in contempt concerns suspect Steven Vincent Jr., who faces nine charges, including first-degree assault, after police say he shot a gun in a St. Louis neighborhood and hit an apartment building. Bullets went through the wall and one struck an 11-year-old girl who was sitting in her bedroom.
Vincent’s trial was supposed to begin April 10, but Desilets didn’t appear. Another prosecutor told Noble at the time that Desilets had to miss court for a doctor’s appointment. The judge then asked Desilets to appear in court for a hearing on Monday, April 24, with proof of the doctor’s appointment and to reschedule the start of trial. However, Desilets didn’t show up then either, prompting Noble to summon Gardner or a designee, as well as Desilets, to appear at Thursday’s hearing.
Desilets explained that he hadn’t been there on Monday because he had had to handle business in front of another judge that morning, adding that once he had finished and gone to Noble’s courtroom, no one was there. When asked why he hadn’t informed the court that he would be late, Desilets said that all attorneys in the St. Louis circuit are routinely late bouncing among multiple courts, adding that “every lawyer is late to a division every day, unless he’s unemployed.”
The judge was not in the mood for excuses, however, and placed most of the blame on Gardner. After describing Gardner as “the captain of the ship” early in the hearing, he closed the proceedings by using another sailing analogy.
“The circuit attorney’s office appears to be a rudderless ship of chaos,” said Noble. “Kim Gardner is the circuit attorney, and it is her duty to manage the caseload of each staff member. Chris Desilets has approximately 104 felony cases. Any prudent practitioner would expect such a caseload to create countless irreconcilable conflicts. It does not appear she has made any reasonable efforts to prevent the resulting chaos.”
Persistent staffing issues have plagued Gardner’s office, which has long been understaffed and now reportedly has just three prosecutors to handle hundreds of felony cases.
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Gardner, who took office in 2017, had a more than 100% turnover rate for attorneys in her first two years in office and by earlier this year had about half as many attorneys on staff as when she assumed the job. The effects of the high turnover in Gardner’s office have been “a state of dysfunction, low morale and dearth of legal wisdom necessary to safeguard the public from potentially dangerous criminals,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch previously reported.
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