Teen athlete loses legs in crash; prosecutor asked to resign
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Missouri attorney general called Wednesday for the resignation of St. Louis’ elected prosecutor, after a motorist who repeatedly violated his bond conditions on earlier charges crashed and injured a teenage volleyball player from Tennessee, resulting in amputation of both of her legs.
The case has renewed criticism of Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner amid questions about why the driver wasn’t behind bars after court records showed more than 50 violations of bond conditions.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Republican, said Gardner must step down by noon Thursday, or he’ll try to remove her from office.
“Instead of protecting victims, Circuit Attorney Gardner is creating them,” Bailey said in a statement. “My office will do everything in its power to restore order, and eliminate the chaos in St. Louis caused by Kim Gardner’s neglect of her office.”
Others, including Democrats, joined in the criticism of Gardner. Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, a Republican, said Gardner should resign, calling her “incompetent and grossly unfit to hold her office.” Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher also urged Gardner to step down.
Democratic St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said Gardner had “lost the trust of the people,” but did not call for her resignation.
Janae Edmondson, a 16-year-old player in town for a volleyball tournament, was injured Saturday night when the crash left her pinned between two cars in downtown St. Louis while walking back to a hotel with her family. The high school senior, from Smyrna, Tennessee, was in stable condition, her coach said, but faced complications that could keep her hospitalized for weeks.
As of Wednesday night, a GoFundMe campaign to support her family had raised more than $343,000.
Police said Daniel Riley, 21, an unlicensed driver, was speeding and failed to yield at an intersection when his vehicle hit another car that then struck Edmondson. Riley was out on bond after a 2020 robbery charge that was dismissed and re-filed last year.
His bond violations included letting his GPS monitor die and breaking terms for his house arrest, according to court records, which show he violated bond at least seven times since Feb. 1, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Court officials said they didn’t know Riley had violated his bond because prosecutors had never filed a motion to revoke it.
A judge on Tuesday ordered Riley held without bond after Riley’s attorney, Daniel Diemer, argued for a reduced bond, saying Riley had no serious criminal history other than the robbery charge. At that same hearing, Edmondson’s parents said her father used his military training to stem the bleeding with tourniquets made of belts until paramedics arrived.
Gardner, in a statement Wednesday night, said Riley was released on bond in August “against the state’s wishes.” She said her office sought a bond hearing in January but got no response from the court.
“Judges have the sole authority to determine the bond conditions of a defendant,” Gardner said. “Bond violations and decisions do not solely rest on the shoulders of prosecutors. In this matter, prosecutors asked on several occasions for higher bonds, and those requests were denied.”
A bill advancing in the Missouri Legislature would allow Gov. Mike Parson to appoint a special prosecutor to handle violent crimes in St. Louis, with supporters contending Gardner has not been tough enough on crime during her tenure. Gardner’s supporters rallied earlier this month in Jefferson City, saying the effort to take away her power was racially motivated.
Gardner was first elected in 2016. In 2018, she charged then-Gov. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy, accusing him of taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair. Greitens, a Republican, accused her of a political attack. The charge was later dropped but Greitens, also under investigation by Missouri lawmakers, resigned in June 2018.
The case drew scrutiny that led to the conviction of Gardner’s investigator, and discipline for her.
In March, investigator William Tisaby pleaded guilty to misdemeanor evidence tampering. A month later, Gardner reached an agreement with the Missouri Office of Disciplinary Counsel in which she acknowledged that she failed to produce documents as part of the Greitens investigation and mistakenly maintained that all documents had been provided to Greitens’ lawyers. She received a written reprimand.
She drew the ire of St. Louis police in 2019 when she placed dozens of officers on an “exclusion list,” prohibiting them from bringing cases. The list was developed after a national group accused the officers of posting racist and anti-Muslim comments on social media.
In 2020, Gardner filed a lawsuit accusing the city, a police union and others of a coordinated and racist conspiracy aimed at forcing her out of office. The lawsuit alleged violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was adopted to thwart efforts to deny the civil rights of racial minorities.
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