Gun-waving charges against Senate candidate's wife amended

JIM SALTER
Associated Press

A special prosecutor said Tuesday he has amended the charges against a St. Louis woman who waved a gun at racial injustice protesters last summer, and he'll decide soon if he'll amend charges against her husband.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey were indicted by a grand jury in October on felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering. Special Prosecutor Richard Callahan said in a statement that he filed a new indictment on Monday that would give jurors the alternative of convicting Patricia McCloskey of misdemeanor harassment instead of the weapons charge. Under that alternative, the evidence tampering count would be dropped.

The move essentially gives a jury the option of convicting Patricia McCloskey of the lesser misdemeanor charge if it sees evidence of a crime that doesn't reach the level of the felony charges.

"While there is still work to do and more witnesses to interview in terms of trial preparation, this substitute information represents my best judgement (sic) as to the options a jury or a judge should be given in light of the totality of the facts and circumstances that can be proven," Callahan's statement read. "A similar decision will be made regarding Mark McCloskey in the coming days."

An investigation by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's office led to the indictments in October. The charges also made the McCloskeys celebrities in conservative circles — so much so that Mark McCloskey announced last week that he'll seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2022.

Joel Schwartz, the attorney for the McCloskeys, declined comment.

On June 28, a few hundred protesters marching weeks after George Floyd's death ventured onto the private street where the McCloskeys live. The couple said the protesters trespassed and threatened violence, causing them to fear for their lives. Protest leaders said the march was peaceful.

Mark McCloskey emerged with an AR-15-style rifle. The harassment alternative charge states that Patricia McCloskey "without good cause and with the purpose to cause emotional distress, pointed a semi-automatic pistol at a group of individuals in front of her home." Cellphone video captured the confrontation. No shots were fired and no one was hurt.

The McCloskeys, both of them lawyers in their early 60s, have pleaded not guilty and the case is s cheduled for trial in November.

Gardner's office, though, won't be prosecuting it. Callahan, a longtime judge and former U.S. attorney, was appointed special prosecutor after a judge in December ruled that Gardner created an appearance of impropriety by mentioning the McCloskey case in fundraising emails before the August Democratic primary. Gardner went on to win reelection.

Several Republican leaders — including then-President Donald Trump — spoke out in defense of the McCloskeys' actions. The couple spoke on video at the Republican National Convention. Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has said that if the McCloskeys are convicted, he'll pardon them.