A Missouri judge on Thursday dismissed Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner (D.) from her role in prosecuting a St. Louis man who, together with his wife, brandished guns outside their home in a show of opposition against Black Lives Matter protesters.
Gardner exploited the high-profile cases against Mark and Patricia McCloskey in fundraising emails. That drew a rebuke from Circuit Judge Thomas Clark II, who was trying Mark McCloskey's case. Clark slammed Gardner for compromising the couple's right to a fair trial.
"The campaign emails demonstrate the Circuit Attorney's personal interest in this case, raise the appearance of impropriety and jeopardize the Defendant's right to a fair trial," Clark ruled.
Defense attorney Joel Schwartz said Gardner's fundraising appeal called into question the validity of the charges.
"It appears that she chose to prosecute them to rile her base in order to raise money and votes," he told the Washington Free Beacon.
Schwartz said he filed the motion to remove Gardner from the case because he did not believe she could be unbiased in her examination of the case. He argued that a more objective prosecutor would drop the charges against Mark McCloskey.
"I want to get an unbiased prosecutor taking a fresh look at the evidence," he said. "It is my belief, as it has been from day one, that there is no crime and the evidence will indicate that."
Gardner's campaign began fundraising off of the case even before charges were announced. She linked the McCloskeys to her political opponents, including Missouri senator Josh Hawley (R.), Governor Mike Parson (R.), and President Trump.
In one email, the campaign wrote, "The Senator of Missouri … has requested that the DOJ launch an investigation against Kim for upholding the law — because he believes the couple's right to wave guns around at people who were not threatening them to be a civil right."
In another email, the campaign told constituents that Gardner "isn't afraid to stand up and hold those accountable who are perpetuating a system of systemic racism and police brutality," immediately before soliciting donations.
The judge removed Gardner's entire office from the case, reasoning that no assistant attorney under Gardner's supervision and employment could be effectively screened from the appearance of impropriety.
Gardner's office declined to comment on the ruling beyond a public statement that the prosecutor's office will "review the court order and determine our options."
Schwartz said he planned to file a similar motion to dismiss Gardner from the separate case against Patricia McCloskey that stemmed from the same incident.
"I would hope that [a new] prosecutor after taking a look at this will dismiss the charges against both of them," he told the Free Beacon.
Gardner charged Mark and Patricia McCloskey in July for brandishing firearms at a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters on their private street in St. Louis. Photos and videos of the incident went viral, and the couple, who argue they acted in self-defense, later joined a Trump campaign event in July and spoke at the Republican National Convention.