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Circuit Judge Thomas Clark II on Thursday blocked Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner from prosecuting Mark and Patricia McCloskey after determining, from fundraising emails, that Gardner "initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
"Like a needle pulling thread, she links the defendant and his conduct to her critics," Clark wrote in his decision. "These emails are tailored to use the June 28 incident to solicit money by positioning her against defendant and her more vocal critics."
The decision also barred the rest of Gardner's office from prosecuting the case. "This is a high-profile case, receiving extensive media coverage, eliminating any possibility that any assistant circuit attorney is unaware of Ms. Gardner's incipient interest, initial involvement and advocacy on this matter," wrote Judge Clark
Gardner's spokeswoman, Allison Hawk, responded by saying their office "will review the court order and determine our options."
The McCloskey family received national attention in June after they were seen on camera protecting their homes with guns from protesters associated with Black Lives Matter who had taken to marching across their property.
The video immediately sparked controversy, with supporters of the McCloskeys arguing that they had every right to assume the mob would be violent given they had already broken down a gate, while detractors argued that they pointed firearms at innocent protesters for the purpose of intimidation.
Charges were filed by the Circuit Attorney's office in July and the couple was indicted by a grand jury on October 6. They pled not guilty to charges of illegally brandishing a weapon. The Missouri governor said that he would pardon the McCloskeys if they were convicted.
The move from the Circuit Judge comes as a blow to Kimberley Gardner, a reformist who was seeking to defend her agenda.
No announcement has yet been made on a replacement for Gardner in the case.