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A pedestrian-vehicle crash in St. Louis left a visiting teen athlete, Janae Edmondson, a double amputee. It also sparked a public outcry—and a rare attempt to remove an elected public official from office.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey took removal action on Feb. 23. He is petitioning a court to boot St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner from her post, citing “years of willful neglect” in her prosecutorial duties.
Gardner’s alleged inaction in one criminal case culminated in Janae’s horrific injuries on Feb. 18, Bailey said.
He points out that Daniel Riley, 21, the driver accused of causing the crash that hurt Janae, is an armed robbery suspect who remained free despite violating his house arrest order dozens of times.
Thus, Riley “never should have been driving that car,” Bailey declared. He and other Missouri politicians called for the prosecutor to resign in the wake of the crash involving Riley and Janae.
Further, Bailey alleges Gardner has “mismanaged her office, causing a mass exodus of employees” and “has a backlog of at least 3,000 cases that she has failed to review for charges, including some number of violent crimes.”
But in a Feb. 23 news conference, Gardner defended her actions in Riley’s case. She said her office made repeated attempts to get Riley’s bond revoked, but a judge ignored or rejected those requests.
She also denounced Bailey’s attempt to oust her as a political stunt, distracting from the focus on Janae’s family.
A crowd of Gardner’s supporters applauded. “We got your back,” one person shouted as Gardner’s nine-minute conference ended.
Judges Turned Down Requests
The controversy is occurring amid a national debate over the alleged “soft-on-crime” policies of some Democrat officeholders.
Gardner has been hailed for her efforts to enact police reform. But even some of Gardner’s fellow Democrats, including St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, were critical of her job performance after Janae was nearly killed just after she participated in a volleyball tournament.
“This incident and others have highlighted the fact that some improvements need to be made in [Gardner’s] office,” Jones told Fox 2 Now, a St. Louis TV station.
“She really needs to do some soul-searching as to whether she wants to continue as circuit attorney because she’s lost the trust of the people.”
Others, including the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said attacks on Gardner were unwarranted.
During Gardner’s news conference, one person shouted a question, asking what she was going to do about “racist people harassing and intimidating you.”
“Well, I think that’s a very complex question,” Gardner said. “It’s about the people of the city of St. Louis that elected me to do a job.”
Gardner emphasized: “We know we do not control every part of the system. But what we can control is: We’re gonna fight very hard for justice, in spite of the vitriol, the hate, the racist attacks, the known manipulation of the court procedures to make sure our office fails.”
“This situation is a tragedy for our community and our criminal justice system,” Gardner said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.
She also pledged to hold Riley accountable and extended her “personal deepest sympathy” to Janae and her family, who are from Smyrna, Tennessee.
Father Helped Save Daughter
The teen’s parents were with her and witnessed the horrific incident, Bailey said in a court record.
Just before the crash, Janae had “verbally committed to play sports for a college in Tennessee,” Bailey wrote.
Around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 18, Janae and her parents were walking along a sidewalk, away from the volleyball tournament and toward their hotel. That’s when “a speeding car driven by Daniel Riley crashed into another car and struck Ms. Edmondson, severing one of her legs and maiming the other,” Bailey wrote.
“Her father, thanks to his quick thinking and military service, applied two belts as tourniquets as he watched the life drain from her face,” Bailey said.
Gardner said she sympathized with the teen’s parents as they confront this “unimaginable tragedy.”
“As a mother, I know all too well the depth of fear that all parents endure when their child is harmed,” Gardner said. “As a nurse, I am deeply grateful to Janae’s father for his quick action, which likely saved her life.”
The crash happened as Riley was driving a gray 2023 Audi Q5. Police say he failed to yield at the intersection of St. Charles and 11th streets. A white 2016 Chevrolet Malibu struck the Audi, which then hit Janae and a parked vehicle before rolling onto its roof, police said in a written summary sent to The Epoch Times.
Some media reports indicated that Janae’s legs were pinned between two vehicles in the aftermath of the crash, an assertion that the police summary excluded.
The driver of the Chevy, her passenger, and Riley all were treated for minor injuries, police said.
Four Operations So Far
On GoFundMe.com, the “Pray for Janae” campaign has drawn contributions from more than 6,000 people, totaling nearly $400,000 as of Feb. 23. She played for the Mid TN Volleyball Club, which asks people to pray for her.
Club director and fundraising organizer Rhonda Ross wrote: “We are thankful to report that her condition, though serious, is now stable. The whole club loves Janae and values her athletic gifts, toughness, determination, and perseverance.
“These are things she will need in great measure during the long recovery that lies ahead.”
In a Feb. 23 update to the GoFundMe page, Ross reported that Janae was alert and interacted with her parents and sister.
“This was a blessing for them to see her open her eyes and engage with the room,” Ross said. “Understandably, she is in considerable pain. Her doctors have referred to her as a ‘fighter’ throughout her surgeries.”
Ross wrote that Janae remains in critical condition and has undergone at least four surgeries so far. She said the fundraising goal has been increased to $900,000 to cover medical bills, prosthetics, home renovations, and other expenses.
“We are overwhelmed by the love and support shown to the Edmondsons by the St. Louis community, volleyball clubs, as well as people all across the country,” Ross wrote.
“We are so thankful for your kindness and generosity. In solidarity with the Edmondson family, we ask that you wear purple [her favorite color] to any volleyball tournament, event, or occasion you may have,” Ross said.
“We believe purple is a unique color, like Janae. It exudes joy and is a signature color for Janae’s quest as a survivor, not as a victim.”
Suspect Allegedly Had 104 Violations
Riley’s record dates to 2020, when he was accused of stealing a firearm at gunpoint. Bailey wrote that Gardner’s office dismissed that case and refiled it in 2022.
“But not before Riley—who was out on bond—earned 54 separate violations for failing to comply with the pre-trial bond conditions,” Bailey said.
Riley then earned 50 more violations, Bailey said, alleging that Gardner “never filed a motion to revoke Riley’s bond.”
Gardner disputes that assertion. She says her office sought a bond revocation in December 2021, but a judge turned down that request.
After the case was refiled in 2022, a judge released Riley on his promise to appear in court, wearing an electronic monitoring device.
That happened against her office’s wishes, Gardner said.
In November 2022, “the court modified the bond, which allowed Mr. Riley to leave home for work, although they knew he was already leaving his home,” Gardner said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.
Then, in January 2023, “prosecutors asked the court for a hearing date to address Mr. Riley’s bond. There was no response,” Gardner wrote.
Now facing charges in the crash that injured Janae, Riley remains jailed without bond, authorities said.
During a Feb. 21 court hearing, Janae’s mother told a judge: “I felt like my soul has been ripped out,” KSDK-TV reported.
Her parents said they didn’t know how to tell their daughter that her legs had gone.
Riley’s next court date is Feb. 27.
Bailey and Gardner held separate news conferences shortly after Bailey made good on his promise to seek her ouster.
Some news media outlets incorrectly reported that Bailey “fired” Gardner. Bailey doesn’t have the ability by himself to remove another elected officeholder.
On Feb. 22, Bailey had set a deadline of noon on Feb. 23 for Gardner to tender her resignation. A minute past that time, Bailey filed a petition for a “Writ of Quo Warranto.”
That’s an extraordinary move, attorney Mike Allen, a former Ohio prosecutor, told The Epoch Times.
“It’s extremely rare,” Allen said. “I’ve never heard of this happening before, but it was probably just a matter of time with these prosecutors that aren’t doing their jobs, allegedly.”
Bailey said he wishes he didn’t have to take this extraordinary step, but he feels it’s his duty.
In the petition seeking the writ, Bailey alleges: “For years, the Circuit Attorney’s Office has failed to prosecute cases to resolution, has failed to inform and confer with victims, and has failed to even review and file cases submitted by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.”
Such alleged inaction constitutes a failure to perform statutory duties, Bailey said. To remove Gardner from office, Bailey said, “We need to prove neglect. We believe that the allegations of the petition establish neglect.”
Bailey told reporters he disputes some of Gardner’s statements about her office’s actions in Riley’s robbery case.
“There are inconsistencies in her excuses,” when compared to some court records, Bailey said, “and we’re gonna get to the bottom of that.”
When a reporter asked Gardner why court records showed her office made no attempts to revoke Riley’s bond, she replied, “Those can be made orally, or written … and that was done in this case, on numerous occasions.”
Besides alleging her inaction in the Riley case, Bailey also accuses Gardner of failing to appear in a murder case against a suspect named Brandon Campbell. As a result, the charges were dismissed, Bailey said.
Bailey denied that his actions against Gardner were politically motivated.
“This is about the rule of law and justice,” he said. “I’m obligated under the statute to hold Kim Gardner responsible for her failure to discharge her legal, moral, and ethical duties.”
Past Praise and Controversy
Gardner, a former member of the Missouri House of Representatives, has held her elected office as a prosecutor since 2017.
Last year, the state Supreme Court reprimanded Gardner and fined her $750 for errors in the case against Eric Greitens, who was then governor.
“Gardner conceded that she failed to produce documents and mistakenly maintained that all documents had been provided to Greitens’ lawyers in the criminal case that played a pivotal role in the Republican’s decision to resign in June 2018,” the Associated Press reported.
In 2021, CBS’ 60 Minutes featured Gardner in a segment, “Prosecutor Kim Gardner’s fight to reform the St. Louis justice system.”
The TV show said, “demands for police reform have been growing since 2014, when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, was shot dead by a white cop in a nearby suburb.”
Many people were counting on Gardner, “a Democrat in a Red State,” to change things. But she ran into “relentless opposition from the police union and its powerful allies,” the TV show said.
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