The St. Louis couple that shot to national prominence for waving guns at protesters outside their house last summer agreed to a plea deal Thursday that will allow them to avoid jail time. Instead of facing felony charges in court, Mark and Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanors and will pay a small fine. Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault; Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment. The couple, both in their early sixties, had faced felony firearm charges for their display last year that ricocheted around the internet, drawing the attention of Republican politicians climbed over one another pledging to absolve the pair of personal injury attorneys.
As part of the plea deal, the McCloskeys must forfeit the AR-15 and semiautomatic handgun brandished that day, but their guilty pleas won’t affect their ability to own guns, nor will it hinder their law practice. The reduced sentence was not what the original prosecutor on the case was seeking. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner charged the couple with felonies and was aggressively pursuing the case as an example of gun rights run amok after the white couple emerged from their home to confront protesters, many of whom were Black, walking through the neighborhood to demonstrate outside of the mayor’s house, which was nearby. The balancing of gun rights and the right to protest in anti-police brutality demonstrations, along with the racial dynamics of each, propelled the case to national political significance that broke along well-worn political lines.
Gardner, St. Louis’ first Black circuit attorney, was taken off the case by the circuit judge after Gardner’s reelection campaign included the McCloskey case in fundraising emails. A lawyer for the McCloskeys said the emails indicated legal prejudice, a political motive to the prosecution, and the circuit judge named a special prosecutor to the case, former U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan. Callahan, who is white, agreed to reduce the charges, considering “the age and lack of a criminal record for the McCloskey’s, the fact they initially called the police, and the fact that no one was hurt and no shots were fired.” “The protestors on the other hand were a racially mixed and peaceful group, including women and children, who simply made a wrong turn on their way to protest in front of the mayor’s house,” Callahan noted. “Mr. Callahan looked at this in a reasonable light, and we came up with a reasonable disposition,” a lawyer for the McCloskeys said of the plea deal.
In the plea deal, Mark McCloskey, like a good personal injury lawyer, smelled opportunity. “The prosecutor dropped all charges against me, except for a claim that I put other people in imminent fear of physical harm,” McCloskey, who is trying to parlay his 15 minutes into a run for Missouri’s Senate seat, said of the deal. “That’s exactly what I did, that’s what the guns were for. And any time the mob comes and threatens me, I’ll do the same thing again to protect my family.” McCloskey is predictably running as a law and order Republican candidate without any sense of irony.