By JIM SALTER and DAVID A. LIEB , Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Prosecutors on Monday dropped an invasion-of-privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, but say they still plan to pursue the case.
Assistant St. Louis Circuit Attorney Ronald Sullivan made the surprise announcement in court after the third day of jury selection in Greitens’ trial. Sullivan cited the fact that Greitens’ defense attorneys planned to call the St. Louis circuit attorney, Kim Gardner, whose handling of the case has been under constant criticism by Greitens attorneys.
Greitens’ defense team has particularly focused on the prosecutor’s hiring of a private investigator, William Tisaby, whom Greitens’ lawyers have accused of perjury.
The first-term Republican governor was charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking and transmitting a photo of an at least partially nude woman without her permission in 2015. If convicted, Greitens could have faced up to four years in prison. He’s denied criminal wrongdoing.
A Gardner spokeswoman says a decision will be made later on how to proceed.
Greitens has rejected calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats since he first admitted in January that he had an affair before he was elected governor in 2016.
The woman, who has been identified only as K.S. in court filings, has testified that Greitens bound her hands to exercise equipment in March 2015 in the basement of his St. Louis home, blindfolded her and removed her clothes before she saw a flash and heard what sounded like the click of a cellphone camera. She has said Greitens threatened to disseminate the photo if she spoke of their encounter but later told her he had deleted it.
Greitens’ indictment in February prompted the Missouri House to launch its own investigation. It released a report in April containing more testimony from the woman that Greitens had restrained, slapped, shoved, threatened and belittled her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
The committee released a second report May 2 with testimony about how Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign had used a donor list from The Mission Continues without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans’ charity he founded. Greitens also faces a felony charge in St. Louis for disclosing the donor list to his political fundraiser.
Statement From Gardner’s Office:
Since January, Governor Greitens and his defense team have taken a scorched-earth legal and media strategy and relentlessly attacked the intentions, character and integrity of every person involved in investigating the Governor’s behavior including Missouri House Committee members, the Attorney General, the Circuit Attorney and her team, his victim, her family and those who have called for his resignation.
On February 22, 2018, a Grand Jury indicted Governor Greitens on Felony Invasion of Privacy. The Circuit Attorney has done everything in her power to remain focused on the facts and the truth of this matter. The Circuit Attorney and her team are ready, willing and able to go to trial this week on behalf of the people of the state of Missouri and Mr. Greitens’ victim.
Last week, Governor Greitens made a motion to include the Circuit Attorney as a defense witness. A defendant who wishes to call a prosecutor as a witness must demonstrate a compelling and legitimate reason to do so. Governor Greitens has produced no compelling reason to include the Circuit Attorney as a witness for any purpose. The defense team knows that the tactic of endorsing the Circuit Attorney as a witness is part of their ongoing effort to distract people from the defendant’s actions that brought about both the felony Invasion of Privacy and Computer Tampering charges against him.
22nd Circuit Judge Rex Burlison made an unpreceded decision by granting a request by Governor Greitens’ defense team to endorse the Circuit Attorney as a witness for the defense. 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.
While the court has other remedies, such as calling the private attorney of K.S. as a witness, it has chosen not to do so. 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.
The Circuit Attorney and her team will research the best step forward for this case in light of the court’s ruling. The Circuit Attorney will be make a decision to either pursue a special prosecutor or make an appointment of one of her assistants to proceed.
Susan C. Ryan