ST. LOUIS (CN) – After three days of jury selection, prosecutors announced Monday they have dropped their invasion of privacy case against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens stemming from claims that he blackmailed a former mistress during an affair he admitted to.
Prosecutors will be seeking to refile the charge with a special prosecutor after Greitens’ lawyers said they would be willing to call St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner as a witness. Once St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ruled that Gardner could be called as a witness, the decision was made to drop the case.
Greitens, 44, a Republican, is accused of taking a partially nude photo of a mistress and threatening to release the photo online if she ever spoke of the affair. Greitens has admitted to the affair, but denied taking the photo. A grand jury indicted him on felony invasion of privacy.
“Above all, I am sorry for the pain that this process and my actions have caused my family, my friends, and the people of Missouri,” Greitens said in a statement posted on his Facebook page Monday. “I am extraordinarily grateful for the tremendous patience and courage of friends, family, and people of faith, who have all recognized that in time comes the truth. We have a great mission before us. And at this time, I’d ask people of goodwill to come together so that we may continue to do good together.”
Defense lawyers have accused Gardner of misconduct throughout the discovery process and claimed she allowed a former lead investigator to commit perjury. Burlison sanctioned the prosecution in a hearing last month, allowing the redeposition of several key witnesses, including Greitens’ mistress. Last Wednesday, the judge said that “the issue of sanctions [against prosecutors] has not been concluded.”
In a statement, Gardner said that Greitens’ camp offered no compelling evidence to include her as a witness for any purpose.
“22nd Circuit Judge Rex Burlison made an unprecedented decision by granting a request by Governor Greitens’ defense team to endorse the Circuit Attorney as a witness for the defense,” Gardner’s office said in the statement. “The court’s order places the Circuit Attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination within the offer of proof by her own subordinates.”
The prosecutor continued, “While the court has other remedies … it has chosen not to [use them.] When the court and the defense team put the state in the impossible position of choosing between her professional obligations and the pursuit of justice, the Circuit Attorney will always choose the pursuit of justice. The court’s order leaves the Circuit Attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial. Therefore, the court has left the Circuit Attorney with no other legal option than to dismiss and refile this matter.”
Scott Rosenblum, one of Greitens’ attorneys, blasted Gardner while talking to reporters outside of the courthouse.
“The Circuit Attorneys’ attack on Judge Burlison was completely irresponsible,” Rosenblum said. “He showed more patience, gave everybody a full hearing, extended incredible patience and courtesy to the Circuit Attorney’s office and to give you some insight, I think he made it clear throughout this case that the issue of sanctions is still on the table. He had made that clear. And if they want to suggest that they were on the side of right and that all they were doing was justice they could not be more wrong. All they were doing was injustice in this case. If this is the side of justice, that is frightening for everyone in this city, everyone in this country.”
The announcement about the dropped charge came at 4:40 p.m. Monday, shortly after more than 30 jurors had made it to the second phase of the selection process.
The decision comes after several secret filings with the court over the past several days and after news broke late last week that the photo in question was not found during a forensic analysis of Greitens’ phone, nor was there any evidence of a deleted photo during the time in question.
The governor’s indictment triggered an investigation by a Missouri House committee as well as calls for his resignation or impeachment, including by fellow Republicans. A special session of the House has been called and is scheduled to begin Friday evening to pursue possible sanctions including impeachment.
It is unclear whether the developments in the invasion of privacy case will have an impact on those proceedings.
Greitens also faces a second felony computer tampering charge in the same court relating to claims he took a donors list without permission from a charity he founded and used it to solicit donations for his gubernatorial campaign. That case is still pending.