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Missouri Supreme Court won't let McCloskeys work with right-wing media group while on probation

Mark and Patricia McCloskey point guns at protesters in front of their Central West End home on June 28, 2020.
Bill Greenblatt
Mark and Patricia McCloskey point guns at protesters in front of their Central West End home on June 28, 2020.

As a condition of their probation, Mark and Patricia McCloskey are required to provide 100 hours of pro bono legal services to organizations that provide free legal services for poor or indigent Missouri residents.

Updated: May 19, 2022 at 1:16 PM CDT
This story has been updated to include the comments of Mark McCloskey.

The Missouri Supreme Court has rejected the request of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis lawyers who brandished guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020, to provide pro bono legal services to Project Veritas, a right-wing media group, as a condition of their probation.

Earlier this year, the court indefinitely suspended the McCloskeys’ law licenses but stayed their suspensions and placed them on probation for a year. As a condition of their probation, they are required to provide 100 hours of pro bono legal services to organizations that provide free legal services for poor or indigent Missouri residents.

In March, the couple asked Missouri’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel to approve Project Veritas as such an organization, but the office turned down their request. The office said that Project Veritas “does not provide legal services without charge to or on behalf of poor or indigent Missouri residents.”

The McCloskeys then sought approval from the Missouri Supreme Court, arguing that the conduct for which they were punished, namely waving guns at peaceful protesters, “did not relate to conduct that targeted or caused particular harm to poor or indigent persons.”

But the court on Wednesday also turned down their request, finding that Project Veritas was not an “approved legal assistance organization” under the Missouri Supreme Court rule defining such organizations in Missouri. The one-paragraph order was signed by Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson.

Reached at his St. Louis law office, Mark McCloskey said that the Supreme Court wouldn't allow him to work for Project Veritas "because, guess what, it's a right-wing organization they would say, but all it does is it finds out and publishes the truth on organizations that are sacrosanct to the left — for example, Planned Parenthood."

McCloskey said he would look for other Missouri "family values organizations" that he could volunteer for.

"I'm sure there are entities opposing critical race theory — I'll see if I can work for one of those organizations. I'm sure the Supremes won't like that either," he said. "And we'll see how many conservative, constitutional organizations I can volunteer for and be denied the right to by the Supreme Court and the bar association."

Project Veritas is a conservative, tax-exempt group that has carried out “sting” operations and undercover reporting using false identities against a variety of organizations, including Planned Parenthood, NPR, CNN, the Washington Post and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). It was founded by conservative provocateur James O’Keefe in 2011.

The group is best known for hidden camera stings aimed at exposing what it describes as liberal media bias at news organizations, labor organizations and Democratic groups.

In November, FBI agents raided O’Keefe’s home and the homes of some of his associates in connection with the alleged theft of the diary of President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley. The diary ended up in the hands of Project Veritas, which later turned it over to police.

A pending lawsuit by Project Veritas alleges The New York Times defamed it when the newspaper published an article last year that included excerpts from memos prepared by a lawyer for Project Veritas. The lawyer “described legal strategies that would allow the group to engage in deceptive reporting practices that did not violate federal law,” The Times reported.

The Missouri Supreme Court disciplined the McCloskeys after Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel, Alan D. Pratzel, recommended that the court suspend their licenses following their guilty pleas to misdemeanors stemming from the gun-waving incident.

The couple, who practice law together, drew national headlines in June 2020 when they confronted a group of mostly Black protesters who had entered their gated St. Louis community en route to demonstrate in front of the nearby home of a former St. Louis mayor.

Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty in June 2021 to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was ordered to pay a fine of $750. Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty on the same date to misdemeanor harassment and was ordered to pay a fine of $2,000.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson pardoned both the following month.

Despite entering guilty pleas, the McCloskeys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Missouri Supreme Court's probation orders against them, claiming they had acted lawfully in defending their home.

Mark McCloskey is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. Others seeking the GOP nomination include former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and U.S. Rep. Billy Long.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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