ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Mark and Patricia McCloskey made their first appearance in a St. Louis courtroom Monday after being charged last month with brandishing guns at protesters outside the couple’s Portland Place home in June.
The St. Louis couple, who gained national attention even before they were featured last week at the Republican National Convention, had their first court appearance before Associate Circuit Judge Craig Higgins.
The McCloskeys were charged with one felony count each of unlawful use of a weapon — exhibiting.
Their hearings Monday were postponed until Oct. 6. The cases are expected to be heard by a St. Louis grand jury that will decide whether there is sufficient probable cause for an indictment. Most cases in St. Louis Circuit Court go to a grand jury instead of a preliminary hearing.
“We’re anxious to remove all the noise from this case, move the case forward and have the facts heard by a jury,” defense lawyer Joel Scwhartz said outside the courthouse Monday. “And let the jury decide whether or not the McCloskeys committed any felony offenses, because we’re convinced with absolute certainty that there was no felony committed here.”
Charging documents state that Mark McCloskey, 63, pointed an AR-15 rifle at protesters and Patricia McCloskey, 61, wielded a semiautomatic handgun, placing protesters in fear of injury, authorities have said.
Charges said investigators conducted “numerous” witness interviews and relied on video footage and the McCloskeys’ own statements about the June 28 incident.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner previously said, “It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St. Louis.”
Gardner said the charges resulted from a thorough police investigation and that she would be open to resolving the charges with a diversion program, a form of probation that would mean no conviction for the McCloskeys if successfully completed.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sought to dismiss the charges against the couple, a move Gardner is fighting. Gov. Mike Parson said he would pardon the couple if they were convicted.
After the incident, the couple told the Post-Dispatch they would do it all again.
The couple said they’d been told days before that the protest group Expect Us was planning an event. Mindful of the June 1 arson of a 7-Eleven store in downtown St. Louis, the couple had fire extinguishers in every room on the lower level of their mansion. Mark McCloskey also had his rifle at the ready.
McCloskey said he saw a “flood of people” break through a locked gate and enter Portland Place, a private residential street.
Protesters have denied that, saying they came through an unlocked gate and did not damage it. A video from the night shows an apparently undamaged gate being held open for the first demonstrators, but at some later point, the gate was damaged. Protesters have also said they were not on the McCloskeys’ property.
The marchers were heading to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house on Lake Avenue and taking a shortcut through the private neighborhood.
The McCloskeys said they grabbed their guns and confronted the protesters, fearful for their lives. Mark McCloskey said both safeties were engaged on their guns. A lawyer for them later said the pistol was inoperable.
In a confrontation that lasted about 15 minutes, Mark McCloskey can be heard yelling, “Get out! Get out! Get out!” A protester responds, “Calm down!” while someone else yells an expletive.
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