FIRST ON FOX – Embattled St. Louis, Mo., district attorney Kim Gardner – who is currently facing pressure to resign – used an organization linked with far-left political donor George Soros to inject an "aggressive" "racial equity" agenda into the office's daily operations, which affected prosecutorial decisions, a Fox News Digital investigation found.
In 2017, and shortly after she was elected, Gardner brought in The Vera Institute of Justice to aid an "aggressive" ideological reform.
Soros' Open Society Foundations donated nearly $11 million to Vera in previous years.
The collaboration between Gardner and Vera was considered a "pilot partnership," which the nonprofit said it would use as a "blueprint" for future district attorney offices around the U.S. as part of its mission to end "mass incarceration" and dissolve the criminal justice system's footprint in the U.S.
MCCLOSKEYS SPEAK OUT AFTER ESCAPING SOROS-BACKED DA FELONY CRUSADE FOR 'DEFENDING' HOME FROM BLM
"[T]he criminal legal system has been a tool of racial oppression and social control… of Black people…. As some of the most powerful actors in the system, prosecutors have a responsibility to work to rectify that impact," Vera said. "Prosecutors should… repair harms caused by the system... They should also dramatically shift the policies, practices, and organizational culture of their offices to address racial disparities and ensure respect for the inherent dignity of all people."
The president of Vera Justice – Nicholas Turner – said about rising crime, "Maybe you sense some level of chaos or disorder or something that feels like an unraveling… Maybe we've gone too far, you might have recently said… And listen, you're not wrong."
Vera trained Gardner's office to address the disparities in the justice system.
"Vera developed… training[s] to make… [the] argument: mass incarceration is a problem, and prosecutors have the power to change it," the organization said.
Vera taught Gardner's staff that, "An over-reliance on incarceration does not make communities safer" and "the system is steeped in racial bias and disproportionately affects Black and brown communities."
In order to enter into a "Motion for Justice" partnership with Vera and get its support, DA offices must commit to reducing racial disparities by at least 20%. In order to accomplish this, partnering DA's must promise to, for example, ignore criminal histories when prosecuting repeat offenders.
WIFE OF OFFICER MURDERED IN ST. LOUIS BLM RIOTS SAYS DA KIM GARDNER TO BLAME: 'CRIMINALS GET MORE RIGHTS'
Gardner and Vera's partnership oversaw the creation of an analytics dashboard that would organize "a data-informed approach to justice" to meticulously build on their goals to "dismantl[e]" and "disrupt" the criminal justice system in St. Louis.
To address "racial inequity," Vera crunched the data on how the St. Louis' justice system "disproportionately impact[ed] communities of color" and presented policy recommendations to DA leadership on how to suppress those disparities, which were then implemented by the DA.
The structure put in place appeared to incentivize prosecutors to try and tamp down on key metrics that were being watched – refusal rates of cases and pre-trial detentions.
"[B]ecause most prosecutors have absolute discretion over who gets charged, an office’s refusal rate can be a key metric for determining whether the office is actively shrinking the criminal legal system’s footprint," Vera said.
Based on Vera’s review and recommendations, the DA "began monitoring its refusal rate over time" and applied "a more stringent review of cases at initial charging."
For example, prosecutors began applying a "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement to initiate charges instead of the standard of probable cause to decrease the case load entering the system.
"[W]e will continue the fight to remedy harms the system has caused to Black people across our city," Gardner said. "I, a Black woman from one of the most challenged neighborhoods in St. Louis, commi[t]… to reserve incarceration for only the most serious offenses."
BIDEN OFFICIAL MOCKS 'OPPRESSION' VOICED BY 'WHITE PROTESTERS' AGAINST LOCKDOWNS, SHARES DEFENSE OF BLM RIOTS
In fact, most criminal cases went unprosecuted in 2021, including felonies.
The amount of dropped cases had a "demoralizing" effect on the police officers, according to Jane Dueker, who represents the St. Louis Association of Police.
In a statement, the organization told Fox News, "Vera provided support on research-backed approaches to safety that included using data to examine how the office’s decisions impacted marginalized communities. No taxpayer funds were used."
However, providing "approaches to safety" wasn't nearly the full picture. When Fox News Digital followed up on the 25,000 pending cases which were dismissed "based on Vera's review and recommendations," they did not respond.
Another key part of Vera's "Motion for Justice" mission is to refuse prosecuting criminal cases that were uncovered through "pre-textual stops," meaning situations where an officer discovers criminal activity through a random stop prompted by his or her suspicion.
Gardner also had a policy – which was unclear whether it was recommended by Vera – to put certain officers on an "exclusion list" and refuse to prosecute their cases unless it could be proven without them as essential witnesses.
The effects of the Vera-Gardner partnership can be seen in the steady increase in the no-prosecution rate, i.e. the number of cases dropped from the DA's roster, as well as the decreased incarceration rate.
The no-prosecution rate jumped from 22.6% in 2018 to 35.8% two years later – with 34.4% of felony cases in St. Louis meeting the chopping block.
From 2016 to 2019, the city’s jail population decreased by 26%, Vera said. "[T]he fact that the jail population has significantly decreased over the same period that [the DA] has more aggressively refused cases… indicate that [the DA's] efforts are contributing to a reduction in how many people are detained at the jail."
During Gardner's tenure, crime spiked in St. Louis, with the city experiencing near-record murder rates.
The last two years were among the city's deadliest in decades. Last year, WalletHub ranked St. Louis the most dangerous city in the country because of high rates of crime and other dangers.
Vera also seeks to remove stigma from criminals, a term which they do not use because it "creates punitive connotations or associations with guilt."
Fox News Digital reached out to Vera and Gardner for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Fox News' Michael Tobin and Aaron Kliegman contributed to this report.