Teen athlete loses legs; St. Louis prosecutor under scrutiny
ST. LOUIS — Beyond the grief after a teenage volleyball player from Tennessee lost both legs following an accident in downtown St. Louis, her family and those around them are left to wonder why the driver responsible for the wreck was able to get behind the wheels of a car, the girl’s coach said Thursday.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is among those also questioning why 21-year-old Daniel Riley, a robbery suspect, wasn’t behind bars after court records showed more than 50 violations of bond conditions.
Bailey, a Republican, blames St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat. On Thursday, he filed court documents seeking Gardner’s ouster on three grounds: failure to prosecute existing cases, failure to file charges in cases brought by police and failure to confer with and inform victims and their families about the status of cases.
Gardner has given no indication she plans to step down. She planned to speak at an afternoon news conference.
“This is about the rule of law and about justice,” Bailey told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday. “Instead of protecting victims, which is her obligation, she’s creating more victims by neglect in office.”
Seventeen-year-old Janae Edmondson was walking with her family to their downtown St. Louis hotel Saturday night when she was struck. Police said Riley, an unlicensed driver, sped through an intersection. His car hit another car that struck Edmondson, pinning her between the two vehicles.
The high school senior, from Smyrna, Tennessee, is “stable and alert and with her family,” said Jeff Wismer, a coach at Mid-TN Volleyball Club. As of Thursday, a GoFundMe campaign on Edmondson’s behalf had raised more than $365,000.
“The question needs to be, how was this young man in a car?” Wismer asked. “How was this young man out of his house? How was this young man even in his home and not in prison?”
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.
But Gardner, in a statement late Wednesday, blamed judges. She 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.”
Riley’s former attorney agrees with Gardner. In a blog post, attorney Terrence Niehoff wrote that an assistant prosecutor “did bring to the Court’s attention Riley’s numerous bond violations,” but judges allowed him to remain free.
Still, Republican leaders of the Missouri House and Senate both urged Gardner to resign. Democratic St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said Gardner had “lost the trust of the people,” but did not call for her resignation.
Riley was jailed after the accident. A judge on Tuesday ordered him held without bond.
Attempts to oust elected officials in Missouri are rare but not unprecedented. In 2009, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster asked a judge to remove Dent County prosecutor Jessica Sparks, a Republican. Koster alleged Sparks had failed to fulfill her duties, misused her office by accusing police of misconduct and had been involved in domestic disturbances. She resigned before a judge could rule on the ouster request.
Meanwhile, a bill advancing in the Missouri Legislature would allow Republican 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. Gardner’s supporters rallied earlier this month in Jefferson City, saying the effort to take away her power was racially motivated.
Gardner drew national attention in 2018 when 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, who is Black, 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.
Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri.