Judge allows Kim Gardner to be represented by Harvard professor
Ronald Sullivan Jr. has represented Harvey Weinstein, Aaron Hernandez and the family of Michael Brown.
ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is turning to two attorneys with ties to the former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ invasion of privacy case to help defend her in an effort to remove her from office.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey filed a rare quo warranto petition to remove her from office two weeks ago, accusing her of failing to keep victims informed about cases, prosecuting at least 3,000 cases sitting in an email account and having just five prosecutors left to oversee more than 400 felony cases.
Gardner’s response to that petition is due Tuesday, March 14.
On Tuesday, Judge John Torbitzky granted Gardner permission to have Ronald Sullivan Jr. join her legal team. The high-profile Harvard law professor helped her try to prosecute Greitens, who resigned before he could be prosecuted. He is not licensed to practice law in Missouri, so a judge had to agree to let Gardner sponsor him during this proceeding.
It’s unclear how Gardner intends to pay Sullivan for his services. 5 On Your Side is awaiting a response from Gardner’s spokeswoman Allison Hawk.
Michael Downey of the Webster Groves-based Downey law firm has confirmed to 5 On Your Side that he, too, will be representing Gardner. He said he expects to file three pleadings in response to the attorney general’s complaint by midnight Tuesday, March 14.
Downey said he will provide his services to her on a pro bono basis as he did when he represented her during her disciplinary process with the Missouri Supreme Court after Greitens’ defense team accused her of withholding evidence from them. That resulted in a written reprimand.
Sullivan’s resume also includes helping Michael Brown’s family reach a $1.5 million settlement with the City of Ferguson in 2017 as well as serving on the legal team for disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez was acquitted of a double homicide.
Harvard students upset that Sullivan would defend Weinstein against numerous sexual assault allegations forced the prestigious school to part ways with him as its first-ever Black faculty dean of an undergraduate house in 2017, according to the New York Times.
Sullivan also withdrew from Weinstein’s legal team citing teaching conflicts with the trial date back then but said that he would “remain available for advice and consultation,” to Weinstein’s legal team, according to the article.
Sullivan remains a “leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics and race theory,” according to Harvard’s website. He now serves as a faculty dean of an undergraduate house there but is no longer the “Master,” of the house, according to the site.
Anders Walker, associate dean for research and engagement at St. Louis University’s School of Law said this was a smart move for Gardner to lawyer up with Sullivan.
“I think it’s smart for Gardner to hire a high profile attorney for someone to turn it to the media and turn it into exactly what she says it is, a political witch-hunt that is baseless and to attract attention from national media outlets. Once it becomes national, I think the Supreme Court of Missouri will be much more reluctant to oust Gardner,” Walker said.
Walker also shared removing Gardner would be a national scandal.
“The voters have voted for her twice now and so to remove her would to take away the vote from the citizens of St. Louis. Unless she’s committed a crime i.e. armed robbery, then she can argue fairly easily that this is a Republican attorney general who is going after her for being the first African American elected prosecutor in the city of St. Louis,” he said.
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