The Missouri Governor’s Office told News 4 Gardner would step down late Tuesday morning. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office later issued a statement regarding the resignation on Twitter. The statement mentioned that the Circuit Attorney has “worked with St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and his office to ensure a comprehensive transition plan is in place to handle cases that prioritizes public safety.”
Bell was seen at the Circuit Attorney’s office Tuesday along with members of his top staff. He declined to comment to News 4. Gardner was not seen at the courthouse. While the Circuit Attorney’s Office said it is working with Bell on a transition, they did not state if he would be temporarily taking over.
In an afternoon news conference, a spokesperson for Bell said they were prepared to take over and assist, but they had not yet been given the legal authority to do so. Parson said he did not speak with Bell on Tuesday.
Gov. Mike Parson did meet with St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones on Tuesday to discuss the needs of the Circuit Attorney’s Office, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. The statement said that the Mayor and Governor agreed that restoring faith to the office is important to a functioning criminal justice system in the city. In Part, the statement said:
Mayor Jones appreciates Governor Parson’s commitment to engaging St. Louis’ elected and community leaders as he makes this critical decision, as well as St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell for his willingness to extend assistance in the interim. We remain ready to support the Circuit Attorney’s Office through this transition.Nick Dunne, Public Information Officer for the St. Louis Mayor’s Office.
Parson said he will pick Gardner’s replacement by Friday, and that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office would assist in the interim. Deputy Attorney General Judge Bill Corrigan and his team will “immediately receive referrals from police and start the process of clearing the backlogs of cases” until a new Circuit Attorney is appointed, Bailey said.
Bailey told News 4 that Corrigan has received appointment paperwork from the governor and has been in contact with the circuit court. He also said Corrigan will be in contact with the St. Louis Police Department “make sure we’re holding wrongdoers accountable starting now.”
Gardner initially planned to resign on June 1. She announced in early May she was stepping down amid accusations by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey that she had neglected the duties of her office. Bailey launched an effort to oust her from office, and since then, multiple assistant prosecutors have resigned. After Gardner announced she would step down in early June, Bailey said she should resign immediately and announced the process to remove her from office would continue.
A judge called the Circuit Attorney’s Office “a rudderless ship of chaos” during a contempt hearing. The hearing was connected to the case of a shooting of an 11-year-old girl. Steven Linell Vincent Jr., 28, was charged in 2021 with four counts each of armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon after a gunshot went through the 11-year-old’s bedroom window and hit her in the arm. The incident happened in the 1300 block of Garrison Avenue in October 2020.
The judge in the case said an attorney in Gardner’s office, Chris Desilets, did not show up for trial on April 10 or a counsel status hearing. A special prosecutor was appointed after the hearing to determine if Gardner’s office would be held in contempt.