Rachel Lippmann | KBIA

Rachel Lippmann

Reporter

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.

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A St. Louis judge has ruled that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner does not have the authority to ask for a new trial in the case of a man Gardner says was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Judge Elizabeth Hogan’s opinion, issued Friday, also says Gardner’s request in the case of Lamar Johnson was filed well beyond deadlines outlined in court rules and decisions. 

A spokeswoman said Gardner will appeal the ruling, and had no further comment.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. Aug. 16 with comments from attorneys —

Sheila Sweeney, the former chief executive of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, has been sentenced to three years' probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

Sweeney admitted in May that she knew Stenger was trying to steer county contracts to a campaign donor and did nothing to stop it. Sweeney helped that donor, John Rallo, get a $130,000 marketing contract, even though he had no relevant experience. She also maneuvered to make sure that Rallo’s real estate company was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. 

St. Louis police say they are frustrated and angry that they are getting so little help in solving the murders of children.

Xavier Usanga, 7, became the city’s seventh homicide victim under the age of 17 this year when he was shot and killed Monday while playing outside in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Two other children have been shot and killed in cases that police are investigating as “suspicious sudden deaths.”

Updated at 5:30 p.m. with comments from the hearing — Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for steering county business to a campaign donor in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions.

The 46-month sentence Friday from U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, which is the maximum under federal guidelines for Stenger’s crimes, is in line with what prosecutors requested. He was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine — the highest allowed by law — and will be on probation for three years after serving his sentence. 

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann take a look at how politics and policy has changed in five years since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson.

This show looks at how the slow change picked up last year with the election of Wesley Bell as St. Louis County prosecutor. That ushered in a new political coalition that’s affecting other parts of county government.

Updated at 10:50 p.m., Aug. 6 with comment from Rita Days and Kelli Dunaway —

Two Democrats captured vacant St. Louis County Council seats Tuesday, giving their party control of the governing body that was shaken up by Steve Stenger’s resignation as county executive.

Former state Sen. Rita Heard Days easily won the race in the heavily Democratic 1st District, which takes in parts of central and northern St. Louis County — including Ferguson and University City. Days beat Republican Sarah Davoli with 84% of the vote. 

In the 2nd District, which includes municipalities like Maryland Heights, Hazelwood, St. Ann, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur, Democrat Kelli Dunaway bested Republican Amy Poelker with nearly 60% of the vote.

Updated at 5 p.m., Aug. 4 with response from Stenger's attorney —

Federal prosecutors say former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger should get the maximum prison term allowed — nearly four years — for a pay-to-play scheme that began even before he took office in 2015.

In a pre-sentencing memo filed Friday, prosecutors said Stenger, through his extensive criminal conduct, abused voters' "trust in a substantial and harmful way. He placed his own personal interests and political ambitions above all else, and engaged in a classic illegal pay-to-play scheme in order to fill his own political coffers to fuel his political campaigns.”

The St. Louis prosecutor is defending her authority to ask for a new trial for a man she says was wrongfully convicted of murder and armed criminal action 24 years ago.

Kim Gardner last month filed a motion for a new trial in the case of Lamar Johnson. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1995 for shooting and killing Marcus Boyd — a conviction that Gardner’s office argued was tainted by police and prosecutorial misconduct.

The St. Louis prosecutor says changes she’s made in how the circuit attorney’s office fights crime have made the city safer.

“We have to stop having this rhetoric that we’re going to be able to prosecute our way out of this. That simply cannot be our strategy for crime reduction,” Kim Gardner told a friendly crowd Thursday night at a town hall. The system is going to do what it’s going to do, and that’s hurt people. And we have to look at how we stop the cycle of victimization.

Several years ago, judges at the St. Louis Circuit Court came up with a simple idea: get everyone who handles criminal cases — from prosecutors to public defenders to police officers — together to share ideas about making improvements.

Now, legislation awaiting Mayor Lyda Krewson’s signature looks to turn an informal gathering into a professional endeavor with paid staff.

Updated 9:45 p.m.  Tuesday with effort to strip pension from Steve Stenger — An insurance executive who received contracts with St. Louis County in exchange for campaign contributions to then-County Executive Steve Stenger has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

John Rallo admitted to bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services in an appearance Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Webber. He will be sentenced Oct. 15. He could face more than two years in prison, although Webber does not have to follow federal sentencing guidelines.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a tax incentive package Friday, sweetening a plan for Build-A-Bear to move its headquarters ⁠— and 200 employees ⁠— to downtown St. Louis from its current location in Overland. 

After passing on a 22-3 vote, the bill now moves on to Mayor Lyda Krewson for a final signature, which a spokesman said she will provide.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she acted appropriately when her office decided in 2018 to charge former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony.

“I steadfastly maintain that all of my actions were both legal and ethical, pertaining to my investigation or my decision to charge the former governor,” Gardner said Thursday at a news conference where she was surrounded by more than a dozen political and religious supporters. 

A leading figure in anti-crime efforts in St. Louis says the region has 18 months to get violent crime under control before it hits a skid that it’s “never seen before.”

“We have been naive for a very long time here,” James Clark, vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, said Monday. “But the national perception of St. Louis is very, very dire. Corporations are not looking to come here. We are losing conventions. And the No. 1 reason is because of our crime and violence.”

The St. Louis County Council is on track to approve more than $650,000 for improvements to the county’s information technology system.

The council gave first-round approval to the upgrades on July 2. Final approval is likely to come at its July 9 meeting.

St. Louis County has suspended three jail employees following the death of a fourth inmate this year.

Daniel Stout died last week, hours after being transferred to the state prison in Bonne Terre. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported he was denied medical care while at the jail.

The suspensions were part of a series of changes in the Department of Justice Services that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced Tuesday.

Updated at 4 p.m., June 18 with calls from Gardner's supporters to end the gag order on the case. — A former FBI agent hired by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to help in the criminal investigation of then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is now facing charges himself.

A grand jury indictment made public on Monday charged William Tisaby with seven felony counts, including multiple perjury charges. His conduct during the investigation was a factor in prosecutors dropping the felony invasion of privacy charge against the governor.

Efforts to ask St. Louis residents to weigh in again on reducing the number of city aldermen by 2023 are on hold.

The decision made Friday to delay any action on legislation forcing another referendum acknowledges the difficulty supporters will have in getting the 20 votes needed to override a promised mayoral veto.

Updated at 11 a.m., June 13 with details about the championship parade — For the first time in their 52-year history, the St. Louis Blues have hoisted the Stanley Cup.

The Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 Wednesday night to secure their first-ever National Hockey League championship. When the final buzzer sounded, fans in St. Louis and elsewhere erupted in a long-awaited celebration, as the Blues mobbed their goaltender on the ice in Boston.

The city of St. Louis will honor the team with a parade and rally downtown along Market Street at noon on Saturday. The route starts at 18th Street and ends at Broadway. A rally will be held afterwards at the Gateway Arch. 

Police departments in Missouri and Illinois are joining law enforcement across the nation over this Memorial Day weekend to crack down on drivers and passengers who don’t wear their seat belts.

More than 500 people have died on the roads in the two states combined this year, and in more than half of those crashes, the people who died were not wearing a seat belt. The annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign, which runs this year from May 20 until June 2, is intended to help bring that number down.

Enterprise Center and much of St. Louis erupted in bedlam Tuesday night as the final horn sounded, sending the St. Louis Blues to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

The Blues beat the San Jose Sharks in spectacular fashion, scoring two power-play goals and an empty-netter to win 5-1. It sets up a rematch of the 1970 final, which the Boston Bruins won in four.

In this very special episode of KCUR’s Statehouse Blend Missouri podcast, we joined forces with St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking podcast to round up the 2019 session of the Missouri General Assembly.

On a special edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio links up with KCUR’s Statehouse Blend to review the ins and outs of the 2019 session of the Missouri General Assembly.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann joined KCUR’s Samuel King and Brian Ellison to talk about the final week of the legislative session. That’s when the Legislature sent abortion restrictions to Gov. Mike Parson.

Missouri lawmakers sent legislation banning abortion after eight weeks to Gov. Mike Parson, the culmination of an emotional and contentious week that ended with many of the GOP governor’s priorities accomplished.

And while legislators Friday also finished a bridge-repair bonding plan and proposal to institute term limits for statewide officials, they fell short on overhauling the state low-income housing tax-credit program and another measure undoing a new state legislative redistricting system.

The 2019 regular session of the Missouri General Assembly wraps up today in Jefferson City. Many legislative priorities for Gov. Mike Parson, including new abortion restrictions, bridge repair and the low-income housing tax-credit program remain on the to-do list.

Here’s how this is going to work: we’ll update from Jefferson City with the latest news and insights. The most recent news will be on top, meaning you can get a whole recap of the day starting at the bottom.

After a week that featured titanic battles over high-profile legislation, Missouri lawmakers are heading into the final day with a lot on their plate.

The unfinished business set for Friday includes final passage of abortion legislation that’s made national headlines, as well as a bill to overhaul the low-income housing tax-credit program.

A nearly 28-hour filibuster of what is usually a simple procedural step ended Tuesday night with a big win for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

Over the objection of a group of six Republicans, the state Senate approved a major economic development package that extended a tax credit for General Motors, which is considering a $750 million expansion of its plant in Wentzville. Also included is a program to fund training for adults in “high-need” jobs, and a deal-closing fund that allows for up-front tax breaks to companies considering expansion.

Updated at 12 p.m. Tuesday with comments from Gov. Parson:

A state incentive package aimed at getting General Motors to expand in Missouri is running into a major roadblock in the state Senate, threatening to derail some of Gov. Mike Parson’s priorities with less than a week left in the legislative session.

Six Republican senators who object to the expansion of job-training aid and a fund that would help finance the closing of economic development deals led a filibuster Monday on what is generally a quick procedural step to begin the day. That prevented any other work from getting done, as the filibuster, which began around 2:30 p.m., stretched into the night and early Tuesday morning.

The ACLU of Missouri and the state’s public defender system have reached a deal meant to ensure that low-income defendants are properly represented when they go to court.

The agreement made public on Monday sets maximum caseloads for the state’s 500-plus public defenders, and allows them to turn down cases to stay within a time limit that is based on how much work should be spent defending different types of crimes. It also makes it clear that defendants must be screened quickly to see if they qualify for a public defender.

Updated at 5:15 p.m., May 10 with Sheila Sweeney's guilty plea — Two people who figured prominently in the political corruption scandal that brought down former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger have been charged as well.

John Rallo, an insurance executive who allegedly received county contracts in exchange for campaign contributions to Stenger, was charged Friday with bribery, mail fraud and honest services fraud, the same charges that Stenger pleaded guilty to last week. Sheila Sweeney, the former head of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, pleaded guilty to covering up the scheme, and not telling law enforcement about it.

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