ST. LOUIS — The guilty plea Wednesday from an investigator for St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner put a spotlight on the next step in the saga: Gardner's own disciplinary process.
It's a process, legal experts say, in which one possible outcome is that the circuit attorney loses her law license. And if that happens, it could jeopardize the ability of Gardner, a controversial anti-establishment progressive who touts reform, to remain in public office. That could upend the criminal justice system in a shrinking city that's often criticized for high crime, sometimes cited by business executives as an impediment to recruitment and growth.
"What might happen is a dispute in which (Gardner) might say, 'I'm going to stay,' and the (Missouri attorney general) might say, 'No, you need to leave,'" said Anders Walker, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law.
The private investigator, William Tisaby, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one misdemeanor count of tampering with physical evidence, related to a criminal probe of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens that saw him resign from public office in 2018. Tisaby received a suspended sentence of one year of probation.
Prosecutors had alleged that Tisaby falsely testified that he never received materials or other information about an interview of Greitens' mistress, despite the fact that they were in constant communication.
Gardner's legal troubles stem from the same investigation.
Unlike Tisaby, she hasn't been criminally charged, but the state's chief disciplinary counsel, which investigates attorneys, last year said "probable cause exists" that Gardner is guilty of professional misconduct. Investigations from the counsel, Alan Pratzel, have previously led to high-profile law license suspensions, including that of former St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.