ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is asking for state help to prosecute thousands of traffic tickets and misdemeanor cases written the Missouri State Highway Patrol since troopers began patrolling the city’s highways this summer.
Gardner is asking Gov. Eric Greitens to order the Attorney General’s Office to help prosecute about 3,500 tickets written since the governor ordered the highway patrol enforcement program on July 9. The governor said the 90-day program was intended to allow St. Louis police to focus more on violent crime.
In a news release Wednesday, Gardner said the patrol is on pace to add more than 35,000 tickets or misdemeanors to the associate circuit court docket within a year.
“We cannot absorb what is tantamount to an unfunded mandate,” Gardner said. “We are not staffed or funded to handle the additional workload presented by the Missouri Highway Patrol. The best and most valuable use of our limited resources and manpower is to protect public safety by addressing the rising violent crime facing our community.”
Gardner said her request comes after Attorney General Joshua Hawley said in a letter on Saturday that his office “is prepared and available to investigate and prosecute” cases arising from protests over last week’s acquittal of ex-St. Louis patrolman Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony L. Smith.
Hawley’s letter mostly discusses the protests but also offers help prosecuting cases “in which a prosecuting attorney’s existing caseload limits the ability to prosecute a new case effectively.”
Hawley’s spokeswoman, Loree Anne Paradise, said in a statement Wednesday that the office will review Gardner’s request. She said the attorney general is ready to assist Gardner’s office in “prosecuting violations of Missouri’s vandalism and anti-riot laws in connection with recent violence in St. Louis.”
Greitens’ spokesman did not return a request for comment.
At least 26 prosecutors have left Gardner’s roster of about 55 trial attorneys since she took office in January and responsibility for prosecuting the extra tickets has been in question, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
Gardner said most “traffic and misdemeanor matters” have traditionally been handled by the St. Louis City Counselor’s Office.
“We will work with the City Counselor to bring the appropriate traffic violations to them for processing and ensure the Highway Patrol understands the protocol,” Gardner said in a statement.
St. Louis City Counselor Julian Bush said Wednesday is office has discussed the issue with Gardner but it was premature to decide whether his office can prosecute the tickets because they have not been referred to the city.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com