Citing political fundraising emails, a judge disqualified St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner from prosecuting Mark McCloskey on gun charges in a case that made national headlines after the attorney waved an AR-15 rifle outside of his mansion amid protests, reports Courthouse News Service. Circuit Judge Thom Clark II said a special prosecutor should take over the case. Mark McCloskey, 63, and Patricia McCloskey, 61, became folk heroes in GOP circles after waving the rifle and a handgun at hundreds of civil rights protesters in front of their home on June 28. They were indicted for unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and tampering with a weapon, a misdemeanor.
Joel Schwartz, representing the McCloskeys, argued that Gardner should be disqualified because her decision to charge his clients was politically motivated. He argued two emails she sent soliciting campaign donations that highlighted the case showed a conflict of interest. Clark said, “the Circuit Attorney’s conduct raises the appearance that she initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes. Immediately before and after charging defendant, she solicited campaign donations to advance her personal interests.” Gardner was involved in a heated primary race. She won that election in August and won reelection in November, running on a platform of criminal justice reform. Eusef Huq, who represented Gardner, told the judge that the emails were responding to attacks from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, regarding the McCloskey incident.