The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, ruled Tuesday that St. Louis' top prosecutor must hand over records concerning her bungled prosecution of former Gov. Eric Greitens to Just the News CEO and Editor in Chief John Solomon, who filed an open-records request for the documents.
Judge Christopher McGraugh ordered the office of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, one of the nation's first prosecutors bankrolled by liberal megadonor George Soros, to produce every document requested by Solomon.
Gardner's office must also pay Solomon's attorney's fees. Solomon was represented by the public interest law firm the Southeastern Legal Foundation
In July 2019, Solomon filed an initial open, public records request under Missouri's Sunshine Law for all records of contacts between Gardner's office and Soros, the Safety and Justice PAC, the Missouri Workforce Housing Association, and several other groups and individuals.
The suit seeks information on contacts with those named from Jan. 6, 2017 through July 3, 2019.
Gardner initially ignored the request, then claimed the requested documents were exempt from the state's sunshine provision, refusing to disclose them.
The trial court ruled in favor of Solomon in 2020, finding Gardner's office purposefully violated the Sunshine Law. According to the judgment, Gardner's office had to search for and provide to Solomon all the public records he requested within 30 days.
Solomon was also awarded a civil penalty of $5,000 and reasonable attorney's fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit.
When Gardner's office failed to comply by refusing to produce the necessary records by the required deadline, Solomon filed a motion in September 2020 requesting Gardner and her office be held in civil contempt.
Gardner's office subsequently filed a motion to set aside the court judgment in favor of Solomon. The court denied the motion, and Gardner's office appealed.
On Tuesday, McGraugh wrote in an appellate court opinion that the points raised by Gardner in her appeal "have no merit," affirming the decision denying her motion.
Now, Gardner's office must provide to Solomon "a list that identifies every document responsive to [his] Sunshine Law request" and to the court "a copy of every document responsive" to his request.
Gardner's office released a statement Tuesday evening. "We are disappointed with the Court’s decision, and intend to investigate and pursue the Office’s right to have the decision reviewed," the Circuit Attorney's office wrote.
Just the News Editor in Chief John Solomon called the Appeals Court ruling a "win for the public."
"There is a lot to this story the public hasn't seen," he said. "You've got a prosecutor with misconduct charges against her and it's been very difficult to get any transparency from the office."
The open-records request sought documents related to Gardner's failed 2018 prosecution of Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and rising Republican star who was forced to resign less than two years into his term.
Gardner accused Greitens of felony invasion of privacy for allegedly threatening to release a picture of his scantily clad girlfriend if she talked about their affair. The Soros-funded prosecutor had to drop the case, however, after admitting she didn't have the photo or other evidence to sustain the charges.
Last year, Missouri's chief legal disciplinary officer accused Gardner of rampant misconduct in her prosecution of Greitens, saying she lied to judges in court filings and testimony, withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense, misled her own prosecution team, and violated the constitutional right to a fair trial.
In a 73-page memo, Chief Disciplinary Counsel Alan Pratzel alleged Gardner engaged in 62 acts of misconduct that resulted in 79 false representations during her prosecution of Greitens.