Breaking News
More () »

'That is a card she should not attempt to play': Families in lawsuit seeking to remove St. Louis prosecutor from office react to racism claims

Three families shared allegations of wrongdoing by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's Office with the I-Team.

ST. LOUIS — “Kim Gardner is a poor excuse for a prosecutor," Brandy Veasley said in July 2021.

“Kim Gardner needs to resign immediately," Jim Dandridge said last month.

“I wish and it would be my hope that she would be fired immediately," Shirley Washington-Cobb said in July 2021.

All are members of families who have accused St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office of mishandling their loved ones' cases.

Their stories, first reported by the I-Team, now serve as part of the basis for a rare legal effort Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is making to remove Gardner from office.

All of the family members now say they are happy to see their stories being used to hold the city’s top prosecutor accountable.

Two of the families are Black, and tell the I-Team Gardner’s claims that criticism of her office is rooted in racism are unacceptable.

“That is a card that she should not attempt to play, because, my son was Black, I'm Black, and I feel what was done with my son was an injustice,” Washington-Cobb said.

Gardner’s office issued a statement, which read: “The Circuit Attorney’s office is unable to comment at this time due to the cases at issue being a part of pending litigation.”

Here are their stories, and their reactions to the news that they are now contained in the quo warranto removal process that’s underway.  

Homeless man beaten to death

Jarmond Johnson and Dwight Washington were both homeless when they got into an argument over money at the Civic Center Metro Transit Center, near the Enterprise Center in February 2020.

Johnson assaulted Washington, 35, who died from his injuries a few days later.

Washington’s mother, Shirley Washington-Cobb, remembers taking the honor walk beside her son as he was wheeled into an operating room to donate his organs.

“In the end, he gave what little he had to offer,” she said, adding that his organs saved the lives of five people.

She called Gardner’s office about a week before she thought Johnson would be going to trial to make sure she could give an impact statement.

That’s when she said she learned a new prosecutor had been assigned to the case, and that Gardner’s office was moving ahead with an 8-year plea deal.

Washington-Cobb wrote to Judge Rex Burlison about her objections to the plea deal in July 2021.

Then, Gardner, her Chief Warrant Officer Chris Hinckley and Director of Community Engagement Khatib Waheed called Washington-Cobb.

“They basically threatened me and told me if I didn’t agree to this, then he could get nothing,” Washington-Cobb said. “And they tried to blame the police saying the video didn’t have sound and it was hard to tell if this was just a scuffle.”

Gardner’s staff also told Washington-Cobb there were no witness statements, something homicide detectives told her they had. And her own children tracked down witnesses to the beating, who said they were willing to testify.

She said the medical examiner’s report also concluded her son’s injuries looked “purposeful.”

“They brushed it off like it didn’t matter,” Washington-Cobb said.

Gardner’s office issued a statement at the time, which read: "Our office is unable to comment on that case as it is currently pending. Our Victim Services department works closely with victims and their families."

Court records show Johnson was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Washington-Cobb never did get to see him put to trial.

She learned her family’s story as told by the I-Team is now being used against Gardner.

“This is so valuable to me because I thought maybe this would be the end of my son's story,” she said.

She’s watched all that has unfolded in recent weeks from her home in Texas.

Gardner’s assertions that the effort to remove her from office are racially motivated upset the grieving mother.

“I don't accept that,” Washington-Cobb said. “From one Black to another, and, as a Democrat, I am also very progressive about civil rights and the liberties of minorities, and I just don't think she can use the lame excuses that I think she's giving.

“I think this is an easy excuse. That is a card that she should not attempt to play because my son was Black. I'm Black, and I feel what was done with my son was an injustice.”

She’s also seen local clergy and activists rally around Gardner.

“I want all these ministers or pastors, or whoever is out rallying for her to think about my son in this and all the other victims of her office,” she said. “Think about how I was lied to.

“If she is a proponent of Black Lives Matter, how ironic that she would demonstrate with my son that to her, his life did not matter. As far as she was concerned, he was a homeless drug addicted nobody. So his life didn't matter, and I think there are five people in addition to his family, and loved ones who would disagree with her that his life, it did matter. He mattered.”

Manhunt for murder suspect freed from jail

Brandon Campbell shot Randy Moore to death on April 9, 2020, in the 3700 block of Aldine Avenue.

Moore had been released from prison two months before his death. He was reconnecting with his children and his nieces as well as trying to put his life on the right track, his sisters said.

His family said Moore and his killer were lifelong friends in a dispute over a girl. After prosecutors charged Campbell with Moore’s murder, he fled the area. U.S. Marshals tracked him to Texas and arrested him.

In July 2021, St. Louis Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser dismissed murder charges against Campbell after prosecutors failed to appear for multiple hearings on the case.

Gardner’s office has “essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes,” the judge wrote.

“The Court does not take this action without significant consideration for the implications it may have for public safety. Although presumed innocent, defendant has been charged with the most serious of crimes…In a case like this where the Circuit Attorney’s Office has essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes, the court must impartially enforce the law and any resultant threat to public safety is the responsibility of the Circuit Attorney’s Office,” the judge wrote.

St. Louis police told the I-Team Campbell walked free following the judge’s ruling, despite a statement from Gardner’s office saying it re-filed the charges and that he is in custody.

In that statement, Gardner wrote: "Be assured that as the Circuit Attorney of the City of St. Louis, I am accountable to the public for the actions of the office and remain committed as ever to upholding the highest possible standards and practices of accountability at all levels of this office, particularly the public safety of the residents of the City of St. Louis. As a result, the individual in this case is (sic) custody."

Gardner’s office issued a revised statement hours later confirming Campbell was at large and that the office has kept Moore’s family informed about the case. The prosecutor on the case was on maternity leave and the defense attorney’s inquiries to Gardner’s office as to who was handling it in her absence went unanswered.

"Upon review of our internal policies and procedures regarding Family Medical Leave, we have determined that corrective measures are needed to further prevent any future repeat occurrence of the incident in question," Gardner wrote in another statement.

The police issued a news release asking for the public's help in finding Campbell.

Moore’s sisters told the I-Team then that they hadn’t heard anything about the case from anyone other than homicide detectives, and learned Campbell was free from the I-Team.

State statute requires prosecutors to keep victims' families informed of the developments in their loved ones’ cases.

Eventually, police tracked Campbell down. He was scheduled to stand trial in February, but, instead, prosecutors and the defense reached a plea deal that resulted in a 15-year sentence in exchange for Campbell’s guilty plea to charges of voluntary manslaughter, armed criminal action and unlawful gun possession.

Cierra Moore, is one of Moore’s 10 siblings.

She told the I-Team her family was not satisfied with the sentence her brother’s killer got and added that she doesn’t believe prosecutors fought hard enough for her brother’s case.

She was happy to hear that it is now being used against Gardner.

Cierra Moore is Black, and said the criticisms of Gardner’s office are not racially or politically motivated.

Missouri’s Attorney General is a white Republican.

Gardner is a Black Democrat.

“This is not about race, this is about you not doing your job,” Cierra Moore told the I-Team.

Randy Moore, 30, left behind three young children, twin boys and a little girl.

Prosecutors say robbery victim is deceased

In August 2020, police say Daniel Riley, Elijah Graham and Tyrese Chandler robbed a man at gunpoint.

Prosecutors issued charges for first-degree assault and armed criminal action against them.

Riley was put on house arrest and given a GPS ankle monitor.

In April 2022, Judge Bryan Hettenbach issued a memo stating Riley could remain on bond even though he had violated it dozens of times. There is no record of anyone from Gardner’s office asking Hettenbach to revoke Riley’s bond, although Gardner has said her office did ask the judge to revoke the bond in oral motions.

That same day, Hettenbach set a trial date for four months later.

That trial date came and went in July 2022. A judge’s memo from what was supposed to be the first day of trial states the witnesses were present along with the defense and the victim, but the state “was not ready.”

The robbery victim’s father, Jim Dandridge, told the I-Team the assistant circuit attorney on the case told him she had just returned from her honeymoon and so she was not ready to go to trial.

The charges got refiled the next day, and Riley continued to violate the terms of his bond.

Transcripts show Gardner’s prosecutors did not object to GPS monitoring for Riley at least twice.

Riley now stands accused of causing the crash that left a 17-year-old volleyball player without both of her legs in February.

Gardner’s office erroneously issued a statement to the I-Team saying prosecutors did not go to trial in July 2022 because the robbery victim was deceased.

And, on Feb. 21, prosecutors from Gardner’s office told a judge and defense attorney the victim was deceased, so charges against Graham were dismissed. They have since be refiled.

Jim Dandridge learned prosecutors believed his son was deceased from the I-Team.

He then called Gardner’s office to tell them he was alive.

Charges have since been refiled on Chandler.

Jim Dandridge called for Gardner’s resignation following his son’s ordeal, and said her office’s failures to prosecute her son’s attacker meant he was able to be out and cause the crash that has now gained national attention.

Seeing his son’s story written into the Attorney General’s petition to remove Gardner from office is somewhat concerning for the Dandridge family.

“My son is worried about retaliation from the people who are involved in this,” Dandridge said. “It has been going on for three years.

“My case isn’t nearly as big as someone who lost someone to murder, but my son could have been killed just as easily. It’s alarming to think these guys were allowed to roam streets violating house arrest and we were never notified.”

He said the concerns are outweighed by his family’s drive to hold Gardner’s office accountable for its role in what happened to Janae Edmondson, who is still recovering from her injuries back in her hometown in Tennessee.

“I’m trying to get justice for this young lady who lost her legs and never should have in the first place,” Dandridge said. “We’ve realized through all of this that there’s another Janae waiting to happen right around the corner, and I felt a duty to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to the next young lady. I feel vindicated a little bit by telling our story.”

Before You Leave, Check This Out