ST. LOUIS — St. Louis’ top prosecutor on Monday charged a husband and wife with felony unlawful use of a weapon for displaying guns during a racial injustice protest outside their mansion.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner told The Associated Press that Mark and Patricia McCloskey’s actions risked creating a violent situation during an otherwise nonviolent protest last month. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who are white, are both personal injury attorneys in their 60s.
“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner — that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,” Gardner said.
An attorney for the couple, Joel Schwartz, in a statement called the decision to charge “disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed.”
Supporters of the McCloskeys said they were legally defending their $1.15 million home.
Gardner is recommending a diversion program such as community service rather than jail time if the McCloskeys are convicted. Typically, class E felonies could result in up to four years in prison.
Several Republican leaders have condemned Gardner’s investigation, including President Donald Trump, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Sen. Josh Hawley, who has urged Attorney General William Barr to undertake a civil rights investigation of Gardner. Parson said in a radio interview Friday that he would likely pardon the couple if they were charged and convicted.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement Monday that he filed a brief requesting that the charges be dismissed under the state’s Castle Doctrine.
“The right to keep and bear arms is given the highest level of protection in our constitution and our laws, including the Castle Doctrine,” Schmitt said in the statement. “This provides broad rights to Missourians who are protecting their property and lives from those who wish to do them harm.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, said on Twitter that the charges were an “unacceptable abuse of power and threat to the Second Amendment.” He called for a federal civil rights investigation into the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office to “determine whether this investigation and impending prosecution violates this family’s constitutional rights.”
The McCloskeys live on a private street called Portland Place. A police report said the couple heard a loud commotion and saw a large group of people break an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs.
Mark McCloskey confronted protesters with a semi-automatic rifle, screamed at them and pointed the weapon at them, according to a probable statement from police officer Curtis Burgdorf. The statement said Patricia McCloskey then emerged with a semi-automatic handgun, yelling at protesters to “go” and pointing the gun at them. Protesters feared “being injured due to Patricia McCloskey’s finger being on the trigger, coupled with her excited demeanor,” the statement said.
No shots were fired.
According to a statement made on Fox News, Schmitt said the charges amount to “nothing more than [a] political prosecution.”
“She (Gardner) has a track record of making political decisions when it comes to the law. And, my job is to stand up for the rule of law,” Schmitt said.
“If Missourians feel like they cannot exercise their fundamental right of self-defense, that’s a serious problem. [This] is why as attorney general, the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I decided to step in here,” he said.
“So, this will play out over a period of weeks, I’m sure. But, we’re right on the law and we look forward to the day that the charges are in fact dismissed,” the attorney general concluded. Missouri Gov. Mike parson also said “without a doubt” he would
Later that day, Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons said “without a doubt,” he would pardon the McCloskeys who are “being attacked frankly by a political process.”