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Gardner defends actions of her office in news conference, court transcripts dispute her claims

Gardner said her office tried to get the suspect's house arrest revoked months before the crash that caused serious injuries to a teenage girl.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner spoke to the media Thursday for the first time since a crash downtown led to fallout and calls for resignation this week.

Gardner started and ended her statement by expressing sympathy to Janae Edmondson and her family after the crash that cost the 17-year-old Tennessee volleyball player her legs. She went on to acknowledge her office could have done more in the 2020 robbery case involving Daniel Riley, the crash suspect, but said her office tried to get a judge to revoke Riley's bond multiple times.

"While it is true my office could have done more, to say we did nothing is not only disingenuous but is willfully ignorant of the reality of our court system," she said. "My office cannot force a judge to revoke bond for a defendant."

She said her office's most recent request for a hearing on Riley's bond was last month, but she said the court has not responded to that request. When asked why court records show no motions to revoke bond, Gardner said the requests were made orally, which she said is a normal practice.

Gardner also said Riley was released into house arrest against her office's wishes after charges were refiled on Aug. 10, 2022.  In response to the statement, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court released transcripts of that Aug. 10 hearing. 

In the transcript, Assistant Circuit Attorney Jonathan Phipps is quoted as saying: "Your honor, I believe we actually reached a consent with defense to have the defendant released on his own recognizance, with added conditions of GPS and house arrest. If you're not inclined to accept that deal, we can enter a full argument on the hearing."

The transcript goes on to show the defense and prosecution agreed to that deal and Riley was placed on house arrest. It does not say anything about him violating GPS monitoring.

There were other discrepancies and a lack of documentation to back Gardner's full timeline in Riley's case.

Gardner's press conference came hours after Attorney General Bailey confirmed during a 12:15 p.m. press conference that he initiated legal proceedings to remove Gardner from office.

When asked about Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey's attempt to remove her from office, she called the move "a political stunt of an unelected individual who wants to use politics to stop the voice of the people in the City of St. Louis."

The crash that led to this week of fallout happened Saturday night when Janae Edmondson and her family were walking back to their hotel in downtown St. Louis. Police said 21-year-old Daniel Riley sped down St. Charles Street, failed to brake, hit several cars and pinned Edmondson. She lost both of her legs in the crash.

Last summer, Gardner's office dropped charges against Riley in connection with a 2020 armed robbery. Court records say the prosecutor's office wasn't ready to proceed at the time. 

In a statement to 5 On Your Side's I-Team, Gardner's office initially claimed the victim in that armed robbery was dead, and that’s why prosecutors were not ready to go to trial against his alleged attacker. Her office then refiled charges.

However, the father of that armed robbery victim told the I-Team's Christine Byers that his son is still alive, and they tried to push to see Riley imprisoned. The Circuit Attorney’s Office's chief warrant officer, Chris Hinckley, said the victim was entered into “the system” as deceased, and that he didn’t know how the mistake happened. Gardner took a few questions after the press conference, but none of them touched on how that mistake was made.

Gardner ended the prepared part of her statements by reiterating she would not be resigning.

“What we have to do our job fairly and justly. There are numerous attacks from individuals who have an agenda to make sure that my office does not succeed. We’re going to fight very hard for justice in spite of the vitriol, the hate the racist attacks,” Gardner said.

“We want to hold this individual accountable, but I’m not gonna point blame to anybody. The buck stops at my office, and we did our job. As I said, we could have done more, but to say we did nothing that’s not true," Gardner said.

“I’m confident in her record,” said Adolphus Pruitt, the President of the St. Louis NAACP.

The NAACP, several clergy members and community activists are standing by the Circuit Attorney.

“I think she is effective in doing the job, that’s not getting reported Pruitt said.

"Our focus is on the recovery of this young woman, Janae Edmondson, and on making sure that the individual actually responsible for what happened to her is held accountable," Gardner said. "And while I understand that politics will always play a role, my office will return to focusing on the important work that the people of the City of St Louis elected me to do."

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