ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge on Friday denied a defense request to return to a grand jury the case against a St. Louis couple accused of waving guns at racial injustice protesters last year.
A St. Louis grand jury indicted Mark and Patricia McCloskey in October on felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon and tampering with evidence. Their attorney, Joel Schwartz, filed a motion this month seeking to send the case back to the grand jury to decide if the couple should have been indicted in the first place. Schwarz cited “bias” in St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office that he said tainted the grand jury process.
Special Prosecutor Richard Callahan — who was appointed months after the indictment — said Circuit Judge David denied the motion and set trial for Nov. 1. The next hearing will be in June.
Callahan declined to comment on the ruling itself, and Schwartz didn’t immediately respond to text messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. Gardner’s spokeswoman, Allison Hawk, said the office is no longer handling the case and had no comment.
Demonstrators were marching to the home of then-Mayor Lyda Krewson on June 28, amid nationwide protests after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protesters ventured onto a private street that includes the McCloskey mansion. The couple, both of them attorneys in their early 60s, said they felt threatened after protesters broke down an iron gate and ignored a “No Trespassing” sign. Protest leaders denied damaging the gate and said the march was peaceful.
Mark McCloskey came out of his home with an AR-15-style rifle and Patricia McCloskey emerged with a semiautomatic handgun. Cellphone video captured the confrontation.
Gardner said the display of guns risked bloodshed. A police probable cause statement said protesters feared “being injured due to Patricia McCloskey’s finger being on the trigger, coupled with her excited demeanor.”
Schwartz, from the outset, alleged that the prosecution was politically motivated.
Callahan, a longtime judge and former U.S. attorney, was appointed special prosecutor after a judge in December ruled that Gardner created an appearance of impropriety by mentioning the McCloskey case in fundraising emails before the August Democratic primary. Gardner went on to win reelection.
The McCloskeys emerged as celebrities in conservative circles. They spoke on video during last summer’s Republican National Convention, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has vowed to issue pardons if they are convicted.
Politico recently reported that Mark McCloskey is considering running for the Senate in 2022, after Republican Sen. Roy Blunt announced in March he would not seek reelection.
Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas.