Eric Schmitt was sworn in as Missouri’s 43rd Attorney General one year ago today. Since taking the oath of office, Attorney General Schmitt has worked tirelessly to fight back on alarming violent crime rates in Missouri’s major cities, inventory and work to clear out the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, address the opioid crisis and hold manufacturers accountable, protect Missouri consumers from scams and fraud, hold municipalities and cities accountable for traffic ticket quotas, and more.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Eric Schmitt was sworn in as Missouri’s 43rd Attorney General one year ago today. Since taking the oath of office, Attorney General Schmitt has worked tirelessly to fight back on alarming violent crime rates in Missouri’s major cities, inventory and work to clear out the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, address the opioid crisis and hold manufacturers accountable, protect Missouri consumers from scams and fraud, hold municipalities and cities accountable for traffic ticket quotas, and more.
Fighting Violent Crime
One of the first major actions Attorney General Schmitt took was launching the Safer Streets Initiative in St. Louis and expanding it to Kansas City and Springfield. The initiative is an unprecedented cooperative effort with U.S. Attorneys Jeff Jensen and Tim Garrison, the first of its kind in the country. Under the initiative, assistant attorneys general from the Attorney General’s Office were sworn in as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) to prosecute crimes on the federal level and add more prosecutorial might.
Five assistant attorneys general were cross-designated as SAUSAs in St. Louis, two were cross-designated in Kansas City, and one was cross-designated in Springfield. The SAUSAs in St. Louis were sworn in in mid-April and the SAUSAs in Kansas City and Springfield were sworn in in late August. Since being sworn in, SAUSAs in St. Louis have secured 78 indictments and SAUSAs in Kansas City and Springfield have secured 30 indictments, totaling 108 indictments across the state in the first year. Additionally, 164 illegal guns have been seized through the program.
Additionally, as part of the Safer Streets Initiative, Attorney General Schmitt and staff joined James Clark’s Better Family Life to help tear down abandoned buildings in St. Louis, which are hotbeds for crime.
Clearing the Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits
Another priority of Attorney General Schmitt is clearing out the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in hospitals, police stations, and ancillary organizations. As part of this push and funded by a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant, Attorney General Schmitt appointed former Jasper County Judge M. Keithley Williams to spearhead the SAFE Kits Initiative. Judge Williams and her team traveled over 17,000 miles and worked over 4,000 hours total to inventory every single backlogged kit in the state of Missouri. This exhaustive inventory was completed in November and returned over 6,800 untested sexual assault kits across the state.
The next phase of the initiative is to create an electronic tracking system and test kits that are available to be tested.
Judge Williams and her team have also hosted a quarterly multi-disciplinary group with prosecutors, law enforcement, healthcare officials, victims advocates, and more. Those meetings will continue into this year.
Protecting Missouri Consumers
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has been as active as ever, from prosecuting crooked contractors to fighting for restitution for scammed veterans to taking action against prolific robocallers.
In 2019 the Consumer Protection Division obtained over $16 million in settlements and judgments and over $12 million in restitution for Missourians. Some of the larger settlements include Fiat Chrysler and Bosch for $1.2 million and $1.9 million respectively, Johnson and Johnson for faulty Deputy hip replacements for $2.2 million, and for profit school Student CU Connect CUSO for $4.7 million.
Some notable actions taken in the Consumer Protection Division include taking multiple crooked contractors to court, joining multi-state investigations into anti-trust behavior by Google and Facebook, suing prolific robocallers and telemarketers, successfully obtaining resolutions for tenants of T.E.H. realty, and much more.
The Attorney General’s Office also launched the SAFE Citizens Initiative to protect Missouri’s most vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled.
Additionally, consumer advocates work every single day to mediate complaints for thousands and thousands of Missourians each year.
Combating the Opioid Crisis
Attorney General Schmitt has made combating the opioid crisis one of his top priorities since entering office. In April, Schmitt launched the Real Opioid Pain Initiative, a push to gather stories from Missourians who have been affected by opioid abuse. Since its launch, the initiative has gathered stories from hundreds of Missourians, who may be used as fact witnesses when the case goes to trial.
Schmitt also expanded the charges against the three major opioid manufacturers that are named in the Attorney General’s lawsuit, which was launched under the previous administration. The new charges are unjust enrichment and public nuisance.
Additionally, Schmitt has made it a point to visit recovery centers and other resources relating to opioids across the state, and held two opioid roundtables in St. Louis and Kansas City in December to hear from stakeholders and get a sense where the most resources are needed.
Attorney General Schmitt has made enforcing Senate Bill 5 and accompany provisions a top priority, and has sued multiple cities for violating those provisions, including the City of Diamond and the City of Marshfield. The Attorney General also has an open investigation into Missouri State University for allegedly enforcing a ticket quota.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has also had a busy year, with nearly $25 million recovered for Missouri taxpayers and 29 convictions obtained.
More information can be found on the Attorney General’s website at ago.mo.gov.