Mark and Patricia McCloskey pointed firearms at peaceful protestors passing in front of their home at 1 Portland Place in St. Louis on June 28.
Mark McCloskey and Patricia McCloskey will be arraigned on Wednesday, October 14 after being indicted by a St. Louis grand jury for exhibiting a weapon and tampering with evidence, their attorney, Joel Schwartz, told The St. Louis American. Schwartz told The American that they will plead not guilty and that the charges are “without merit.”
In a case that will hinge on what is public and what is private, the nationally publicized McCloskeys’ fate turned on the public yet entirely secret proceeding of a grand jury. Even defense attorneys are not allowed before a grand jury. Schwartz told The American that he had requested a transcript of the grand jury proceedings but was not even sure one would be made.
Apparently, the grand jury was not persuaded by the McCloskeys’ argument that they were defending private property when they left the privacy of their home on Portland Place in St. Louis’ Central West End on June 28 to flourish weapons at the protestors walking past their home on the sidewalk and street. Portland Place is private and was marked as such on the gate that the protestors passed through. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner filed charges of exhibiting a weapon, a Class E felony, not accepting the defense that the signed privacy of the street entitled the McCloskeys to flourish weapons at people walking past their home.
Two Harvard Law professors, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Intisar A. Rabb, published a White Paper defending Gardners’ filing charges on July 17, a week after search warrants served on the McCloskeys to take their guns into custody caused a national outcry from 2nd Amendment advocates. Sullivan and Rabb argued that the McCloskeys need to demonstrate reasonable fear of injury to flourish weapons at passers-by even on a private street. They argue that, “based on the publicly available information, it appears unreasonable for the McCloskeys to have believed that they were in imminent fear of bodily injury or injury to their property.”
The McCloskeys also claimed that the handgun wielded by Patricia McCloskey — she was photographed and filmed pointing it at passers-by with her finger on the trigger — was inoperable on June 28. The tampering with evidence charge reportedly brought by the grand jury suggests the jurors may have been persuaded that the McCloskeys tampered with the handgun after June 28.
There is a strange chain of custody regarding the handgun. The American saw Albert Watkins, another attorney retained by the McCloskeys (who are themselves attorneys), hand that gun to St. Louis police detectives on July 11. Watkins said his clients gave the gun to him to preserve the evidence in the event that criminal charges were filed. Watkins said the McCloskeys did not also give him the rifle that Mark McCloskey brandished on June 28 because his actions appeared less incriminating. Watkins said that Mark McCloskey had his safety engaged and did not finger the trigger. The rifle was reportedly taken into evidence on July 10.
Watkins called a press conference and made a show of handing over the handgun, literally cueing news camera operators to point their cameras east when he saw the detectives walking west on Forsyth Boulevard toward Watkins’ law offices, where he announced the press conference just before his appointment with police.
The McCloskeys’ case has been a media circus ever since they left the privacy of their home, armed and flourishing. Watkins took them on a tour of national news shows. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who has no legal standing in the case, filed an amicus brief. Gov. Mike Parson showed interest and said he would pardon the McCloskeys should they be convicted. President Donald Trump spoke up for them. The McCloskeys spoke at the Republican National Convention. There, they served the Trump campaign’s alarmist narrative by warning voters that protestors were coming for the suburbs and only Republicans will protect them. The McCloskeys live in the City of St. Louis, not a suburb.
But now, according to their attorney, the McCloskeys want no more of the publicity they have sought or the politics they have played. “This is about evidence and law,” Schwartz told The American. “Let’s stop the noise.”
Gardner also asked for a stop to the noise when the McCloskeys were putting on a show at the RNC — and putting her life at risk. Gardner, St. Louis’ first Black elected prosecutor, has received vile racist taunts and death threats from McCloskey supporters.
“My job is to fairly and impartially investigate each case of potential wrongdoing and follow the facts wherever they may lead,” Gardner stated.
“I am disappointed that what is typically a routine matter for a prosecutor has been exploited for political purposes, which in turn has opened the floodgates for gleeful racist and misogynistic messages and death threats. The people of St. Louis expect me to pursue equal justice under the law without fear or favor, and that is what I intend to do.”