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Tuesday, 1 September 2020

St Louis lawyer couple who aimed guns at BLM protesters appear in court to face charges of unlawful use of a weapon and insist they did not commit a crime

A white St Louis couple facing felony charges for waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home appeared in court on Monday, where their attorney said they're anxious to prove 'with absolute certainty' that they did not commit a crime.
One week after Mark and Patricia McCloskey spoke on video to the Republican National Convention, they were in court briefly Monday morning and did not enter a plea. The judge continued their case until October 6.
The McCloskeys, who are both lawyers, became the target of national media attention after they emerged from their Renaissance palazzo-style mansion in St Louis with guns on the night of June 28 when protesters veered onto their private street. 
The couple said the demonstrators knocked down an iron gate and ignored a 'No Trespassing' sign, and they felt threatened.
Mark, 63, came out with AR-15 rifle and Patricia, 61, displayed a semiautomatic handgun, according to court records. No shots were fired.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey listen to their attorney Joel Schwartz address the media as they leave court after a first appearance on felony weapons charges on Monday in St Louis, Missouri. The couple were charged in July with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon - exhibiting, after they confronted protesters who were marching through their private street en route to Mayor Lyda Krewson's house in June
Mark and Patricia McCloskey listen to their attorney Joel Schwartz address the media as they leave court after a first appearance on felony weapons charges on Monday in St Louis, Missouri. The couple were charged in July with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon - exhibiting, after they confronted protesters who were marching through their private street en route to Mayor Lyda Krewson's house in June
Mark and Patricia McCloskey and their attorney Joel Schwartz (right) leave court after a first appearance on felony weapons charges on Monday. Schwartz told reporters that the couple are anxious to prove 'with absolute certainty' that they did not commit a crime
Mark and Patricia McCloskey and their attorney Joel Schwartz (right) leave court after a first appearance on felony weapons charges on Monday. Schwartz told reporters that the couple are anxious to prove 'with absolute certainty' that they did not commit a crime
St Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner charged both with felony unlawful use of a weapon and said that their actions created the risk of bloodshed during what she called an otherwise peaceful protest. 
'It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St Louis,' Gardner said.
The McCloskeys did not speak to reporters after the court hearing. Their attorney, Joel Schwartz, reiterated their claims that no laws were broken.
'We are simply anxious to remove all the noise from this case, move the case forward, and have the facts heard by a jury and let the jury decide whether or not the McCloskeys committed any felony offenses because we are convinced with absolute certainty that there was no felony committed here,' Schwartz said.

Missouri law allows homeowners to use force, even lethal force, to defend their homes. 
The case is expected to be heard by a St Louis grand jury, which will decide whether there is sufficient probable cause for an indictment.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sought to dismiss the charges against the McCloskeys, but Gardner is firmly pushing back.  
Governor Mike Parson has said he would pardon the couple if they were convicted. 
The McCloskeys did not enter a plea at Monday's hearing and the case was continued until October. They are pictured arriving in court
The McCloskeys did not enter a plea at Monday's hearing and the case was continued until October. They are pictured arriving in court  
The McCloskeys, who are both lawyers, became the target of national media attention after they emerged from their Renaissance palazzo-style mansion in St Louis with guns on the night of June 28 when protesters veered onto their private street
Wealthy white couple wave guns at protesters outside home
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In addition to Parson, the McCloskeys drew support from President Donald Trump, Missouri Governor Mike Parson and other leading Republicans.
Trump considered the charges an 'egregious abuse of power,' his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said. 
Last week, the couple made the case in an opening night speech of the Republican National Convention that they had a 'God-given right' to defend themselves and their property.
During their RNC appearance the couple touted Trump's defense of the Second Amendment and also warned Americans of the 'mob'. 
'At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob – spurred on by their allies in the media – will try to destroy you,' Mark said as he sat beside his wife and addressed the camera in remote remarks. 
Last week, the McCloskeys made the case in an opening night speech of the Republican National Convention that they had a 'God-given right' to defend themselves
Last week, the McCloskeys made the case in an opening night speech of the Republican National Convention that they had a 'God-given right' to defend themselves
McCloskeys discuss confronting protestors with guns at RNC
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The McCloskeys bemoaned the charges against them and warned others about the wider implications in an interview with Fox News ahead of their RNC appearance.   
'You cannot have freedom and an opportunity to advance unless you have basic safety and security, and that it is not just limited to big cities. They are bringing it to a neighborhood near you,' Mark told the outlet. 
Patricia added: 'You think you have a right to defend yourself and your family and it's shocking that we are still having the fallout. We have years of this following us.'
She described how protesters 'broke an iron fence down' before 'trying to set fire to the mayor's house'. 
Several hundred demonstrators on June 28 veered onto the private street where the McCloskeys' mansion sits. 
The couple, who have a 25-year history of filing a slew of lawsuits, said the protesters knocked down an iron gate and ignored a 'No Trespassing' sign. 
Protest leaders said the gate was open and the demonstration was peaceful until the McCloskeys came out with guns.
Gardner, the prosecuting attorney, said the guns created the risk of bloodshed. A police probable cause statement said protesters feared 'being injured due to Patricia McCloskey's finger being on the trigger, coupled with her excited demeanor'.
The McCloskeys contend the protest was anything but peaceful.
'They broke the gate down,' Patricia said on Fox & Friends. 'They broke it open, then they broke what was left of it down to the ground, an iron fence, and came in and started screaming threats from the beginning. They had weapons, they had fire material.'
The McCloskey case drew Trump's attention, especially after Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed felony unlawful use of a weapon charges in July
The McCloskey case drew Trump's attention, especially after Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed felony unlawful use of a weapon charges in July
Several hundred demonstrators on June 28 veered onto the private street where the McCloskey's Renaissance palazzo-style mansion sits
Several hundred demonstrators on June 28 veered onto the private street where the McCloskey's Renaissance palazzo-style mansion sits
Patricia McCloskey described how protesters 'broke an iron fence down' before 'trying to set fire to the mayor's house'
Patricia McCloskey described how protesters 'broke an iron fence down' before 'trying to set fire to the mayor's house'
The couple, who met when they were at Southern Methodist University law school, moved into the palazzo at One Portland Place having filed a lawsuit in 1988 to obtain the property.
They sued a man who sold them a Maserati they claimed was supposed to come with a box of hard-to-find parts, the paper reported. 
In November 1996, Mark McCloskey filed two lawsuits, one against a dog breeder whom he said sold him a German Shepherd without papers and the other against the Central West End Association for using a photo of their house in a brochure for a house tour after the McCloskeys had told them not to.
For years the couple have been at war over the rights to a small patch of land bordering their property. 
The McCloskeys, according to the paper, have also constantly sought to force their neighborhood trustees to maintain the exclusivity of Portland Place.  
They accused the trustees of selectively enforcing the written rules for living in the neighborhood, known as the trust agreement, and in particular failing to enforce a rule about unmarried couples living together.
Their insistence was seen as an attempt to force gay couples from the community.
The trustees voted to impeach Patricia as a trustee in 1992 when she fought an effort to change the trust indenture, accusing her of being anti-gay. 
In 2002, the Portland Place Association sued to foreclose on the McCloskeys' house because they were refusing to pay dues.  
On a second property, in Franklin County, the couple had disputes with their neighbors over a gravel path, and sued for squatters rights to a section of land.
The McCloskeys also evicted two tenants from a modular home on their property in a period of just over two years.  
He sued his employers for wrongful dismissal, and then turned on his own family, in particular after his father largely wrote him out of the will in 2008, sparking a family feud that would last eight years.
Mark filed a defamation case against his father and sister in 2011, dismissed it in 2012, and refiled it in 2013. By the time of the final filing, Bruce McCloskey was living in a memory care unit in Ballwin; he died in 2014. 
In March 2013 McCloskey sued his father and his father's trust over a gift of five acres, promised in 1976, which never materialized.
A judge ruled against him in 2016.  
Mark and Patricia McCloskey warned violence will come 'to a neighborhood near you' ahead of their appearance at the Republican National Convention last week
Mark and Patricia McCloskey warned violence will come 'to a neighborhood near you' ahead of their appearance at the Republican National Convention last week
Man in St. Louis explains why he brandished rifle at BLM protesters
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Mark told Fox News that Democrat-controlled St Louis 'is a very dangerous place,' and the statistics back him up. The city has long had one of the nation's highest homicide rates, and 2020 is shaping up to be the most violent year in decades.
'This is a prosecutor who has a remarkably low prosecution rate, a remarkably low conviction rate, and I think she's just trying to make an example out of anybody who's willing to stand up against the inherent lawlessness and violence in St Louis,' he said.
Gardner said in a statement that she was disappointed that the case '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.'
Gardner, St Louis' first Black circuit attorney, was elected in 2016 and appears headed to another term. She easily defeated a white former homicide prosecutor in the August Democratic primary and is heavily favored against her Republican opponent in November.
She's been at odds with high-ranking Republicans before.
In 2018, Gardner charged then-Gov Eric Greitens, a Republican, with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair. 
The charge was eventually dropped but Greitens, who was also under investigation over ethics concerns, resigned in June 2018. He denied committing any crime.

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