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'A political football' | Legal experts weigh in on why McCloskey indictments are sealed

Typically, judges and prosecutors suppress indictments if there is a flight risk or to give officers an advantage when arresting dangerous suspects

ST. LOUIS — John Lynch has about 20 years of experience as an attorney and said Wednesday he can’t recall many cases in which grand jury indictments have been suppressed at the state level as they have in the McCloskey case.

The Central West End couple made international headlines after photos of them pointing guns at protesters went viral in June.

On Tuesday, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s office secured a grand jury indictment against the couple on weapons and tampering with evidence charges – but those indictments have been suppressed.

Lynch is one of several experts who told 5 On Your Side the decision to shield the public from the indictments has left them puzzled.

RELATED: McCloskey indictments remain under seal

Typically, judges and prosecutors suppress indictments if there is a flight risk or to give officers an advantage when arresting dangerous suspects, Lynch said.

He added that federal grand jury indictments are almost always suppressed, but it’s unusual to see it done at the state court level.

“If you have an organized crime case or a child murderer, you might want to suppress the indictment until arrests are made, but this is far from that,” Lynch said. “It’s not a very well-kept secret with McCloskey saga.

“The suppression effort by the state is to continue manipulating the process out of pure political motivation which puts a dark stain on St. Louis again while the rest of us are trying to work.”

Anders Walker is a law and history professor at St. Louis University and author of "The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights."

He, too, said the suppression of the McCloskey indictments is unusual.

“I was a little surprised; often indictments are sealed so that the defendants can be apprehended and arrested and I don't think there’s any fear that the McCloskeys, in this case, are going to try to evade arrest,” Walker said. “I think it's probably political.

“These charges are relatively light charges and they're also flimsy. Conservatives have focused heavily on this case as a waste of prosecutorial resources so there may be an effort to not draw further attention to the case until perhaps after the election.”

Gardner's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

The McCloskeys' attorney, Joel Schwartz, said Tuesday he has not seen any official documentation showing his clients have been indicted.

RELATED: St. Louis grand jury indicts McCloskeys on gun charges, tampering with evidence

The charges will become public once the couple is formally arraigned. At that hearing, a judge will have to read the charges against the couple and they will enter a plea so the case can proceed to trial.

“I think this case has become a political football,” Walker said. “It's drawn national attention. Conservatives are very interested in this case. The judge or the prosecutor's office may not want the arraignment to happen before the election simply to avoid this becoming a circus."

That hearing is typically set after an arrest is made.

For now, online court records show the McCloskeys’ next hearing will take place Oct. 14. That date, however, was set before they were indicted.

RELATED: McCloskeys say they are being persecuted while protesters have not been charged

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