Kim Gardner, the first black circuit attorney in St. Louis, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that accuses the city, the city’s police union and others of a coordinated and racist conspiracy aimed at forcing her out of office, according to a complaint.
Gardner, the city’s elected prosecutor, accuses “entrenched interests in St. Louis” of attempting to block her efforts at redressing the city’s historical inequality “through a broad campaign of collusive conduct,” the complaint alleges. The lawsuit, filed Monday in a district court in Missouri, claims the defendants’ actions violate the Ku Klux Klan Act as well as the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
The Ku Klux Klan 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,” the lawsuit states.
Jacob Long, a spokesman for the St. Louis mayor’s office, denied the allegations in a statement provided to CNN.
“The City Of St. Louis vehemently denies what it considers to be meritless allegations levied against it by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner,” the statement says.
“The City fully expects to be vindicated once this case is adjudicated in a court of law.”
The lawsuit alleges the city’s police union “has gone out of its way to support white officers accused of perpetrating acts of violence and excessive force against African American citizens.”
The suit cites work by the Plain View Project, an independent watchdog that has compiled thousands of comments made by police officers on their public Facebook pages in eight cities, to support its argument.
The group has determined that “a number of St. Louis officers had posted racist and offensive content on social media over a period of years,” the complaint alleges.
The Plain View Project’s work led to 22 St. Louis Police officers being banned from bringing their cases to the prosecutor’s office.
Gardner’s spokeswoman said 15 those officers would have their work reviewed by the prosecutor’s office to determine whether they could have their ability to present cases reinstated, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in June.
Two police officers were fired over social media posts uncovered by the Project in December 2019, the officers’ lawyer told CNN affiliate KMOV.
In a statement to CNN, Gardner said: “This is not about Kim Gardner or any individual action.”
“This is about standing up for the people who elected me to pursue justice. This is about upholding equal protection and the laws of the land for all. We will not stop fighting,” she said.
Police union: Lawsuit is ‘the last act of a desperate woman’
The St. Louis Police union, in a statement, called the suit “frivolous, desperate and pathetic.”
The statement characterized the legal action as “the last act of a desperate woman.”
The union claims the lawsuit’s primary goal is to distract from a deposition that Gardner has been ordered to provide as part of a special prosecutor’s probe into alleged criminal conduct of an investigator Gardner utilized during her prosecution of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
Greitens was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from the sexual misconduct allegations as well as a separate felony charge of computer tampering relating to his campaign’s alleged procurement of a non-profit donor list without the charity’s knowledge.
The report included details of a recording of a woman saying Greitens had tried to blackmail her to keep quiet about their sexual encounter. Greitens denied he resorted to blackmail but admitted to an affair.
Greitens said in a statement at the time of the indictment he stood by his work with the charity. Gardner eventually dropped both charges.
The lawsuit says Gardner’s investigation and charging of Greitens drew criticism and led the city of St. Louis, on behalf of the police department, to request the appointment of a special prosecutor to “investigate potential charges in connection with the invasion of privacy case brought against (the) former Missouri Governor.”
However, the choice of Gerard Carmody as special prosecutor was problematic, Gardner’s lawsuit claims.
His lifelong friendship with Edward L. Dowd Jr., one of Greitens’ attorneys, raised conflict-of-interest concerns that weren’t legally addressed, the complaint alleges.
CNN has reached out to Carmody, as well as his children, Patrick and Ryann Carmody, all of whom are named as defendants in the lawsuit for comment.
Patrick and Ryann Carmody have assisted him in his role as special prosecutor, according to the lawsuit.
The advocacy group Mothers Against Police Brutality is paying for the cost of litigation, the group’s CEO and founder, Collette L. Flanagan, told CNN. The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages and asks a judge to stop the defendants from “violating Gardner’s rights.”