ST. LOUIS, MO – A woman is speaking out after prosecutors dropped charges against her ex-husband for allegedly bombing her vehicle in 2018. The charges were dropped because the prosecutor’s office committed a procedural error.
— Anne Allred (@AnneAllredNBC) January 12, 2022
In 2018, Dean McBaine was arrested after he had shot into a home in which the child he shares with ex-wife, Katie Motes, was staying.
Because of the shooting, Motes collected their son and filed injunctions against McBaine and moved him to live with her full-time in St. Louis.
Two weeks after McBaine was released from jail, September 2, 2018, Motes was woken up by a loud explosion in her front yard. Motes ran to the sound of the noise thinking that lightning had struck her house. She said:
“I was awakened to my entire house violently shaking and all the windows were vibrating and there was a huge explosion outside.
I looked out the window and I saw that my car was engulfed in flames…So I ran downstairs to get my child up and out of bed and tell him to get out of the house, there’s been an explosion.
And by the time I got upstairs and ran outside, it was in a massive ball of fire.”
When Motes got to the front of the house, she realized her car was on fire and called for help. When police arrived on the scene, they notified her that the fire was not caused by the weather, but rather from a bomb that had been planted.
Police asked her if she knew of anyone who would be trying to harm her, she immediately knew it had to be McBaine. She said:
“When they asked me if I knew whether anyone would want to hurt me or my son, I said, ‘Yes, my ex-husband.’”
Police and federal authorities investigated the incident and confirmed Motes suspicions, McBaine was the person who had planted the bomb. McBaine was arrested and prosecutors with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office filed arson, unlawful possession of a weapon, endangering the welfare of a child, and property damage charges.
Federal authorities also charged him with failure to register a bomb.
— Nick Perryman (@nfpstl) January 12, 2022
McBaine was convicted in a jury trial in 2019 for possessing an unregistered destructive device and sentenced to five years in federal prison. The state charges against him never made their way from the prosecutors office to court.
In May of 2021, McBaine filed a request for a speedy trial while still in federal custody. When a defendant elects a speedy trial, prosecutors must present the case in front of a jury within 180 days, something that was not done.
In November, Robert Taaffe, McBaine’s attorney, filed a motion requesting that all state charges that were pending against him should be dismissed due to the failure of the prosecutors office to answer the speedy trial demand.
Although the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office initially attempted to fight the dismissal request, instead they dropped all state charges against McBaine.
When Motes learned that McBaine’s charges might be dropped because of the technicality, she told the I-Team:
“I feel like they [prosecutors] abandoned this case.”
Although the state charges against McBaine have been dropped, prosecutors could elect to refile them at a later time, something that Motes fears will enable him to be released from prison on December 15th as opposed to the thirty years he would face if the state charges had been properly filed against him. She said:
“I’m fearful that obviously he would come after me or my son or any of his other siblings or the mothers of his children. It’s a huge concern.”
With her perceived “lax” approach toward prosecuting crime and some botched endeavors, it was only a matter of time before intellectual aptitude became a topic of speculation.
Part of the questioning of competence with regard to Gardner is her tendency to drop cases brought before her office. According to reports, Gardner’s office has dismissed 34% of all felony cases disposed in 2021, which was down from 36% in 2020.
In 2019, Gardner’s office dismissed 32% of cases, 23% of cases in 2018 and 15% of cases in 2017. To put matters into perspective, before Gardner took office, the yearly share of dismissed felony cases ranged from 10% to 15%.
But therein lies another matter – turnover rates for prosecutors in Gardner’s office. Reports shows that over 90 prosecutors have left her office since Gardner’s first term began in 2017 – which serves as a turnover rate that exceeds 100% in the Circuit Attorney’s Office.
Needless to say, a turnover rate exceeding 100% in a four-year period is a concerning benchmark, regardless the vertical in question.
St. Louis-based news outlet Fox 2’s legal expert Attorney Chet Pleban is also alarmed over the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office under Gardner’s leadership.
Pleban, who has been working on various cases with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office since the 1970s, stated that he’s never seen anything quite like these recent snafus afflicting the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office in all of his time as an attorney:
“Clearly there is a problem with her internal management system that needs a quick fix, someway, somehow. But it is inexcusable that you would have three continuances, three times that she doesn’t show up for a murder case.”
When discussing the over 90 prosecutors leaving the circuit attorney’s office since Gardner took over in 2017, Pleban stated:
“Some of those were career prosecutors and they had spent their lives prosecuting murder cases, they leave the office, you replace those with younger inexperienced lawyers. The inexperience of that particular individual is going to be a problem with getting a conviction.”
“I don’t know what the problem is with people leaving that office, career prosecutors. So you’ve got to fix it with competent people coming in to replace the people that left. Don’t know how she’s going to do that.”
But the concerns run deeper than merely turnover rates and dropped cases, as there is also the issue of botched cases and proceedings.
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