Court says Mark McCloskey still guilty despite pardon

 December 30, 2023

A Missouri court just ruled against Mark McCloskey, the attorney who infamously was caught on camera - alongside his wife - brandishing a firearm amid a Black Lives Matter protest that took place outside of his home during the summer of 2020. 

The local outlet KMOV St. Louis reports:

The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, has ruled a St. Louis attorney who brandished firearms at protesters in 2020 is not entitled to have the weapons returned despite a gubernatorial pardon.

What makes this story particularly interesting is the court's reason for ruling against McCloskey.

The court essentially said that, although McCloskey has been pardoned, he is still guilty and, therefore, not allowed to get his weapons back.


Following the incident described at the outset - the McCloskeys' brandishing of weapons during a protest - St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner (D) brought various charges against the couple, including weapons and evidence tampering charges.

On a side note, nine of the protesters were issued trespassing citations for the incident, but they never faced any penalty because prosecutors claimed that they acted peacefully.

Gardner ended up being removed from the McCloskeys' case, but the charges that she had brought against them remained.

The two were charged with unlawful use of a weapon, which is a felony. The felony, however, ended up being downgraded to a misdemeanor assault charge. The catch is that the McCloskeys had to plead guilty to the misdemeanors. They did so.

Then, in August 2021, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) pardoned them.

The ensuing lawsuit

The McCloskeys next brought a lawsuit to recover the firearms that had been taken from them following the incident described above.

At the trial court level, the McCloskeys lost this lawsuit. The court essentially ruled that, even though Parson pardoned the McCloskeys, they were still guilty because they pled guilty to the misdemeanors and thus not entitled to get their guns back.

Dissatisfied with this outcome, the McCloskeys decided to appeal this decision to Missouri's Eastern District Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel issued their decision this past week, on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023.

In this decision, the appellate court judges agreed with the decision of the trial court. The judges wrote:

While we agree that the pardon restored all of his rights forfeited by the conviction and removed any legal disqualification, disadvantage, or impediment, Missouri law is unequivocal that a gubernatorial pardon obliterates the fact of the conviction, not the fact of guilt. Thus, McCloskey’s guilty plea, for which he obtained the benefit of the State dismissing a felony charge punishable by jail time, survived the pardon and importantly, with respect to the issue at hand in this replevin action, triggered the guns’ forfeiture. Therefore, since McCloskey’s guilt remains, it follows that he is not entitled to the return of the weapons.

The question that many are now asking is, if the pardon "restored all of his rights forfeited by the conviction," then why are the McCloskeys not entitled to get their guns back? The answer is not obvious.

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