Teen Athlete Loses Legs in Crash; Prosecutor Asked to Resign

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
February 22, 2023US News
Teen Athlete Loses Legs in Crash; Prosecutor Asked to Resign
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks in St. Louis on Jan. 13, 2020. (Jim Salter/AP Photo)

ST. LOUIS—The Missouri attorney general called Wednesday for the resignation of a St. Louis prosecutor—after a motorist who repeatedly violated his bond conditions on earlier charges crashed and injured a teenage volleyball player from Tennessee who had to have both of her legs amputated.

The case has renewed criticism of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner amid questions why the driver wasn’t behind bars after court records showed more than 50 violations of bond conditions.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey was among those calling for Gardner to resign—saying she must step down by noon Thursday, or would face immediate removal proceedings by his office.

“As Attorney General, I want to protect the people of St. Louis, and that includes protecting victims of crime and finding justice for them,” Bailey said in a statement. “Instead of protecting victims, Circuit Attorney Gardner is creating them. My office will do everything in its power to restore order, and eliminate the chaos in St. Louis caused by Kim Gardner’s neglect of her office.”

Gardner’s office did not immediately respond to a Wednesday email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Bailey’s demands.

The Missouri Senate president also called on Gardner to resign and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said Gardner had “lost the trust of the people.”

Janae Edmondson, a 16-year-old player in town for a volleyball tournament, was injured Saturday night when the crash left her pinned between two cars in downtown St. Louis while walking back to a hotel with her family.

Police said Daniel Riley, 21, an unlicensed driver, was speeding and failed to yield at an intersection when his vehicle hit another car that then struck Edmondson, pinning her between two cars.

Edmondson was visiting with the Mid-TN volleyball club, based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The high school senior, from Smyrna, Tennessee, was in stable condition, her volleyball coach said.

Riley was out on bond after a 2020 robbery charge that was dismissed and re-filed last year. His bond violations included letting his GPS monitor die and breaking terms for his house arrest, according to court records, which show he violated bond at least seven times since Feb. 1, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Court officials said they didn’t know Riley had violated his bond because prosecutors had never filed a motion to revoke it.

A judge on Tuesday ordered Riley held without bond after Riley’s attorney, Daniel Diemer, argued for a reduced bond, saying Riley had no serious criminal history other than the robbery charge.

Prosecutors argued Riley should remain jailed. Edmondson’s parents testified at the hearing about watching as their daughter was injured. The girl’s father used his military training to stem the bleeding with tourniquets made of belts until paramedics arrived, they said.

After some critics blasted Gardner because Rider was not behind bars, she issued a statement Tuesday night saying the controversy was an attempt by her critics to “twist the facts to take advantage of this situation for their own selfish motives.”

“This is not the time for finger pointing, it’s time to support this family, to ensure that justice is served,” the statement said.

Much of the criticism has come from Republicans but on Wednesday, some Democrats suggested Gardner accept more accountability for her office.

“As elected officials, we owe it to the people we serve to take responsibility and own our mistakes when our negligence leads to these kinds of tragedies,” said State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, a Democrat from St. Louis. “I’m disappointed in Circuit Attorney Gardner’s tone-deaf response that focuses more on herself than the young woman whose life has been irrevocably changed.”

Mayor Jones said in a news conference that the Edmonson tragedy and other cases involving Gardner’s office have damaged St. Louis’ reputation.

“And she really needs to do some soul-searching of whether or not she wants to continue as Circuit Attorney, because she’s lost the trust of the people,” said Jones, who did not specifically call for Gardner to resign.

Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, a Republican from Columbia, said Gardner should resign, calling her “incompetent and grossly unfit to hold her office.”

A bill advancing in the Missouri Legislature would allow Gov. Mike Parson to appoint a special prosecutor to handle violent crimes in St. Louis, with supporters contending Gardner has not been tough enough on crime during her tenure.

Jeff Wismer, assistant director for the Mid TN Volleyball Club said Edmondson faced complications that could keep her hospitalized for several weeks.

As of Tuesday evening, a GoFundMe campaign to support her family had raised nearly $344,000.

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