Missouri Governor Can’t Dodge Criminal Privacy Case

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens speaks at a news conference about allegations related to his extramarital affair with his hairdresser, in Jefferson City, Mo., Wednesday, April 11, 2018.  (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

ST. LOUIS (CN) – While the prosecution’s actions warrant sanctions in the invasion of privacy case against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, a St. Louis judge found Thursday those actions do not require dismissal of the case.

Greitens was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury on a felony invasion of privacy charge based on claims that he blackmailed a former mistress during an affair he admitted to.

The prosecution claims Greitens, without permission, took a nude photo of his mistress, who was his hairdresser, and threatened to publish it if she ever told anyone of the affair.

The embattled governor filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming the prosecution withheld evidence and lied, but it was rejected Thursday morning.

In rendering his decision, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison cited Rule 25 of the Missouri Supreme Court, which sets procedural rules for trial.

“These rules are not mere rules of etiquette,” Burlison said in a ruling from the bench. “They must be complied [with] and they are not discretionary. Clearly in this case, the state committed sanctionable actions.”

Burlison said he found the state’s assertion that the defense’s allegations are frivolous to be “troubling.”

However, Burlison said dismissal of a case is only to be considered if a defendant’s defense is irreparably harmed. He said the prosecution’s actions had clearly tilted the field against Greitens, but not so much that the situation couldn’t be cured through lesser sanctions.

Burlison ordered the redeposition of the mistress, her ex-husband and the prosecution’s special investigator, William Tisaby. He believes those sanctions will even the playing field for Greitens’ defense.

But Burlison warned the state about committing any further violations.

“If these lesser sanctions do not even the tilted playing field for the defense, the court again will consider sanctions,” the judge said.

Attorneys for both sides declined to comment immediately after the ruling, citing a gag order previously imposed by the court.

In a scathing motion to dismiss filed earlier this week, Greitens accused St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Kim Gardner of gross misconduct and the special investigator she hired, Tisaby, of perjuring himself during deposition.

He claimed that a video interview with the mistress was hidden and, once found, Gardner and her first assistant gave conflicting stories to the court as to how the tape “malfunctioned.”

Greitens’ lawyers also accused Tisaby of lying under oath, hiding his draft notes and reports, and lying about how he conducts investigations.

“Lack of evidence, questionable motives (whether for self-promotion or at the urging of political operatives), ignoring normal protocol, and possibly fear of public embarrassment fueled the prosecution team’s misguided efforts to try to win at all costs,” the 27-page motion states. “[Gardner] signed the indictment, she hired the special investigator, she presented to the grand jury, and she has attended both court proceedings and discovery depositions. All of this has resulted in gross misconduct on the part of multiple members of the prosecution team. Some of this conduct is criminal in nature. All of it is unethical and against the rules that control our criminal justice system. None of it should be tolerated.”

The prosecution, in a reply, admitted to issues with Tisaby, but argued they have been corrected and those issues do not rise to the level of dismissal. Their response claimed Greitens’ accusations are simply a distraction from the real issue.

“Although there have been mis-steps … the Circuit Attorney in fact disclosed what needs to be disclosed,” the state’s motion stated. “The Circuit Attorney herself has rectified the errors and misstatements of her investigator, enduring painful and unwarranted accusations by the defense in the process.”

Greitens could be facing a second felony computer tampering charge. On Tuesday, the Missouri attorney general’s office announced possible criminal violations by Greitens’ nonprofit charity, The Mission Continues, claiming the governor illegally used the charity’s donor list to solicit campaign donations.

The evidence has been turned over to Gardner’s office, which has jurisdiction in the case, for further investigation. No addition charges have been filed as of Thursday morning.

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