Judge orders Soros-backed prosecutor to hand over records to Just the News
Wednesday's ruling concerned a cache of documents Kimberly Gardner withheld citing claims of privilege.
A Missouri judge has ordered that a George Soros-backed prosecutor hand over documents to Just the News related to the bungled prosecution of former Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.
St. Louis City Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser ordered St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner to supply Just the News Editor-in-Chief and CEO John Solomon with a trove of documents she had withheld citing privilege claims after a judge ordered her in January to comply with an open-records request.
Gardner was one of the first prosecutors to receive significant funding from left-wing megadonor George Soros.
The Missouri Bar's ethics department has formally accused Gardner of misconduct in the Greitens prosecution, recommending professional reprimand of the Circuit Attorney in a 73-page complaint alleging that she withheld and misrepresented evidence and allowed her chief investigator to perjure himself.
The Wednesday ruling in the open records case is the latest development in a yearslong court battle over Solomon's efforts to secure documents related to the Greitens case.
Solomon filed the request in 2019 to obtain documents connected to Gardner's prosecution of Greitens. Gardner accused Greitens in 2018 of felony invasion of privacy over an alleged warning he made to an ex-lover to keep their affair quiet. The then-governor allegedly threatened to release a suggestive photo of the woman. Gardner ultimately dropped the case, admitting she did not possess the photo or any other evidence.
Solomon sought records of communication between Gardner's office, Soros, and several left-wing organizations. Gardner declined to release the documents claiming they were exempt from the state's Sunshine Act, under which Solomon filed the request.
A trial court sided with Solomon in 2020, but Gardner again failed to disclose the documents, prompting him to file a motion to hold her in contempt of court. The court then denied Gardner's motion to set aside the ruling for Solomon, which she then appealed.
In January, 2022, Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District Judge Christopher McGraugh denied the appeal and ordered Gardner both to give Solomon the files and pay his legal fees.
Solomon on Wednesday applauded the court decision and the work of the Southeastern Legal Foundation that represented him.
"Kimberly Gardner has repeatedly been on the wrong side of the law," said Solomon, "first in bringing charges against a sitting governor without the requisite evidence, then in violating numerous standards of professional conduct for a lawyer and finally by throwing repeated roadblocks to complying with the Missouri Sunshine law.
"I am grateful that Judge Sengheiser — like the state appeals court and Missouri Supreme Court — saw through Gardner's cloud of obstruction and ordered the release of these specific documents. In the end, the public is the ultimate winner as they will now see what if any outside forces influenced her bungled prosecution of Gov. Greitens. And we look forward to pressing for more transparency in the litigation that lies ahead, deeply grateful for the excellent work that the Southeastern Legal Foundation, Kimberly Hermann and David Roland have provided to create this win for transparency."
The Southeastern Legal Foundation represented Solomon throughout the proceedings. General Counsel Kimberly Hermann touted the ruling as a victory for the people of Missouri. The "Missouri court has once again ordered Kimberly Gardner's office to turn over documents that she insists on hiding from the public, her communications with Soros-related entities and persons," she told Just the News. "Today's legal win is a huge win for all Missourians, for transparency, and rule of law. No person is above the law and that includes open records laws."
"For three years now Kim Gardner's office has brazenly defied the principles of transparency and accountability, trying every trick in the book to avoid her obligation to produce the records Mr. Solomon requested," said Dave Roland, director of litigation at the Freedom Center of Missouri, which also represented Solomon. "The courts have once again totally rejected her bogus arguments, ordering her to turn over all the records she has been trying to keep hidden. We will continue fighting to ensure that Gardner and all other prosecuting attorneys are held accountable when they abuse the public's trust."