oday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt released his “AGO in Review,” a recap of the work that the Attorney General’s Office completed throughout 2020.
Despite challenges posed by COVID-19, the Attorney General’s Office remained fully functional and continued its important work on initiatives like the Safer Streets Initiative and the SAFE Kit Initiative and launched new initiatives like the Hope Initiative and the Cold Case Unit.
“2020 posed a number of different challenges for everyone, and our Office was no different. Despite those challenges, the Attorney General’s Office made important strides in fighting violent crime, clearing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, and combating human trafficking,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “I’m incredibly grateful to be surrounded by dedicated public servants, and our accomplishments in 2020 are a testament to their hard work. I look forward to what 2021 holds.”
Over the past two years, the Safer Streets Initiative has worked to charge the state’s most violent offenders. Through this unprecedented federal-state cooperative partnership between the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern and Western Districts, lawyers with the Attorney General’s Office were cross designated as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) to prosecute violent offenders in federal court. Since the Safer Streets Initiative was announced in 2019, the SAUSAs have brought 516 charges against 280 defendants statewide. In September of 2020, 3 additional SAUSAs were added to build on the success of the initiative.
The SAFE Kit Initiative also made important progress in 2020. At the beginning of the year, shipping of the untested sexual assault kits had just begun. By the end of the year, 1,500 untested sexual assault kits were sent off to the lab to be tested. Despite challenges posed by COVID-19, shipping events continued safely throughout the year. Earlier batches of kits began to produce Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hits. To date, testing of the kits has produced 38 CODIS hits, which are still being investigated and processed by law enforcement. Additionally, the Office secured $2 million more in federal funding, which will allow for the testing of roughly 900 additional kits.
New initiatives and changes were implemented to aid the Office’s work against human trafficking. Earlier in the year, the Office changed the way human trafficking was reported in Missouri, opting for Missourians to report any instances of human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The shift, which has already led to success stories, allows for enhanced response times and increased federal, state, and local cooperation. The Office also launched the Hope Initiative, a unique approach to combating illicit massage businesses across the state. Since launching the initiative late last year, 33 illicit massage businesses have either been evicted or are likely to be evicted.
Lastly, a new Cold Case Unit was formed in the Office to take a fresh look at homicide cases across the state. Led by seasoned prosecutors Tom Dittmeier and Dean Hoag, the Unit has already filed its first charges in the murder of Kristen Edwards 34 years later. The Cold Case Unit will continue to work with law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute uncharged murder cases across the state.
A quick breakdown of the year by section can be found below.
The Consumer Protection Section worked tirelessly during the pandemic to watch out for price gouging and other COVID related scams, fielding nearly 1,500 complaints, sending several cease and desist letters, and filing suit against Jim Bakker for fraud associated with COVID. Additionally, the Consumer Protection Section:
- Filed 39 total actions
- Obtained $20,258,043.92 in judgments/settlements for the State of Missouri
- Recovered $12,893,289.44 in restitution for Missouri citizens
The Public Safety Section continued its important work in prosecuting homicides, sexual assaults and other complex cases across the state. One case, from January of last year, was personally tried by Attorney General Schmitt and resulted in a conviction in the murder of an Ethiopian immigrant in St. Louis. Another case handled by the Attorney General’s Office resulted in a conviction in a 2017 murder in Wayne County.
In 2020, the Medicaid Fraud Section:
- Handled 8 civil settlements that totaled $ 2,942,851.53
- Obtained 27 indictments and 24 convictions
- Filed 42 abuse and neglect cases
In 2020, the Governmental Affairs Section:
- Closed a total of 987 matters
- Represented 25 different boards, commissions, and client agencies
- Had a 93% favorable outcome in all litigated matters
- Delivered 35 different Sunshine Law compliance courses to roughly 1,400 people
In 2020, the Labor Section:
- Closed a total of 5,133 matters
- Obtained 3,675 dismissals in Second Injury Fund cases and 94 dismissals in Central Accident Reporting Office cases. Those dismissals represent a total of $12,627,967.79 in savings for the SIF and a total of $1,160,196.75 in savings for the CARO.
- Filed 62 new criminal cases and obtained 12 guilty pleas in prosecuting violations of the workers compensation act
In 2020, the Financial Services Section:
- Obtained 993 judgments modifying existing child support orders, ensuring Missouri children get the correct amount as stipulated by Missouri Supreme Court guidelines
- Processed $12 million in payments
- Closed a total of 3,152 matters.
In 2020, the Criminal Appeals Section, which handles appeals of all felony convictions across the State of Missouri:
- Opened 543 new cases
- Closed out 1,103 cases
- Filed briefs in 561 cases
- Argued numerous cases to the Missouri Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals
In 2020, the Litigation Section:
- Closed a total of 270 matters – 179 general civil litigation cases and 91 inmate cases