Another prosecutor leaves Circuit Attorney’s Office

Another prosecutor is out of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office, and the effects are already being felt in the courtroom.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 7:18 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Another prosecutor is out of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office, and the effects are already being felt in the courtroom.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Chris Desilets told News 4 Investigates he resigned Monday, effective immediately.

Desilets was assigned to violent crimes, meaning his cases included shootings and murders. His sudden departure left prosecutors scrambling Monday morning to cover his trials and hearings.

According to court records obtained by News 4, Desilets had two jury trials and a bench trial set for this week. Two of those are murder cases.

Desilets also had a hearing on Monday in the murder of Darrion Rankin-Fleming and his 7-year-old daughter Dmyah. Defense lawyers are asking the judge to throw out the case as they accuse prosecutors of misconduct.

In January 2019, police say the father and daughter were in their car in the Central West End when two people shot them through an open door.

Javonn Nettles and Andre Anderson are charged with the murders.

Last month, just before the trial, Desilets dropped and then immediately refiled the case. Prosecutors have done this twice to Nettles and once to Anderson.

Monday’s hearing was supposed to be held in the morning, but the judge gave the new prosecutor on the case, Rob Huq, until the afternoon to prepare.

“Who am I to complain to Ms. Gardner?” questioned Terence Niehoff, who represents Nettles.

Defense lawyers claim prosecutors dismissed and refiled the case unethically because they weren’t ready for trial, hadn’t turned over all the evidence, and risked sanctions from the judge.

“This is how the Circuit Attorney’s Office works and or doesn’t, and it’s prejudicing people like this because they are presumed innocent, and they’re sitting in jail again and again and again because they keep dismissing charges reissuing and coming before another judge and saying they’re dangerous you can’t let them out,” Niehoff said.

Last month the Circuit Attorney’s Office pinned delays in the case on St. Louis Metropolitan Police, claiming the department hadn’t provided them with all the evidence.

In court, prosecutors argued the case shouldn’t be thrown out, and they should be given more time to go to trial.

“Taking someone’s liberty is second only to taking someone’s life in terms of depriving that prison, so I do take that seriously that someone has been locked up for two years on a case that needs to go to trial, and I’ll emphasize it these cases need to go to trial,” said Rob Huq, who is the office’s Attorney Manager.

The judge decided to hold off on ruling and told prosecutors they had a week to tell him who gave final approval to dismiss and refile the case.

Nearly a dozen family members of Rankin-Flemming and Dmyah were in court Monday.

Last month News 4 Investigates talked to relatives who said they don’t want any part of the questions around the Circuit Attorney’s Office, all they want is justice.

“I want you to put yourself in our shoes, I want you to fight for us like this is your son and your grandaughter, that’s what I want you to do is treat this case personal,” said Suketha Rankin whose son and granddaughter were murdered. “There is so much going on with the situation with Ms. Gardner, people have issues with her, that’s not our fight. We’re not fighting for Kim we’re not fighting for the police department we’re fighting for Darrion and Dmyah.”

Desilets’ resignation is the latest in a wave of departures at the Circuit Attorney’s Office.

On Friday, Gardner announced that Assistant Circuit Attorney Alex Polta had left the office. Assistant Circuit Attorney Nicholas Lake also had his last day on Friday.

In mid-April, Assistant Circuit Attorney Natalia Ogurkiewicz resigned. Chief Trial Assistant Marvin Teer Jr. resigned in March.

Desilets, Polta, Lake, and Ogurkiewicz are four of the five prosecutors assigned to the violent crimes based on employment records the Circuit Attorney’s Office provided News 4 earlier this year. Those cases are being shifted to other prosecutors.

Last week, News 4 Investigates obtained records from the court showing all of the open cases for prosecutors working on violent crimes. These are the numbers News 4 obtained from court records. They include totals for employees who resigned yet still show active cases:

Attorney Manager Rob Huq - 736

Assistant Circuit Attorney Adam Field - 112

Assistant Circuit Attorney Srikant Chigurupati - 71

Former Assistant Circuit Attorney Christopher Desilets - 104

Former Assistant Circuit Attorney Alexander Polta - 78

Former Assistant Circuit Attorney Nicholas Lake - 80

Former Assistant Circuit Attorney Natalia Ogurkiewicz - 105

Former Chief Trial Assistant Marvin Teer - 66

The Circuit Attorney’s Office released the following statement to News 4 Investigates:

The backbone of the Circuit Attorney’s Office is the hardworking men and women who review and issue cases on a daily basis. While we have had some high-profile departures, the office continues to seek justice for the people of the City of St. Louis. The CAO has made adjustments to the workload to ensure all cases are covered and is actively recruiting talented attorneys. The prosecutor’s office continues to be an excellent training ground for those seeking experience in the criminal justice system, and we continue to receive resumes from qualified attorneys. Despite constant criticism and scrutiny, the team continues to pull together to serve the City of St. Louis under the leadership of Circuit Attorney Gardner.