Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, facing a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from an extra-marital affair, got some good news Monday when the judge in his trial granted his lawyer’s motion to call St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to the stand, leading Gardner’s office to drop the charge against him.
Typically, lawyers in a case cannot testify as witnesses without creating an ethical problem under the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct. Hence, when the judge granted Greitens’ request to call Gardner, the woman prosecuting him, to the stand, her office was compelled to drop the charges. Nothing, however, prevents the charges, which allege Greitens took a compromising photo of his paramour without her permission and threatened to release it if she revealed their affair, from being refiled under a different prosecutor.
Greitens and his allies have long contended that the investigation and charges against him are politically motivated. Gardner and the law professor she brought on to assist in her case against Greitens have significant ties to left-wing politics and recently released text messages indicating Missouri Democrats may have encouraged the alleged victim to work with Gardner’s office to help bring down Greitens. This, along with concerns over Gardner’s handling of private investigator William Tisaby, likely explains why Greitens’ defense team sought to call Gardner to the stand.
Greitens and his defense took the news of the judge granting their request with an air of optimism and vindication. “Today the prosecutor has dropped the false charges against me. This is a great victory and it has been a long time coming,” the Associated Press (AP) quotes Gov. Greitens saying as he came out of the St. Louis circuit courthouse. “This experience has been humbling and I have emerged from it a changed man.”
The AP paraphrased his lawyers as saying, “the case was crumbling under a lack of evidence” and that they “doubted any charge would ever be refiled.”
“The case was going nowhere. There was no evidence to support any of the elements,” Greitens’ attorney Jim Bennett told reporters after claiming in court that the search for the alleged photo had been called off after an investigator found no evidence of such an image on Greitens’ cellphone or cloud.
Gardner’s office pushed back on these notions. “The court’s order leaves the circuit attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial,” her spokeswomen Susan Ryan said in a statement.
According to he New York Times, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office will seek a special prosecutor to re-file the charges.
Regardless of whether a different prosecutor pursues the invasion of privacy charge, Greitens is far from out of the woods. He also faces felony election law charges over his alleged improper use of a charity mailing list during his campaign, and he stands in an increasingly embattled political position in Missouri. Republican Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley has called on Greitens to resign, and both Republican-controlled houses of the Missouri General Assembly voted by margins of at least three-to-one to reconvene for a special session, scheduled to begin Friday, to consider impeaching the governor.
Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) told reporters as he announced the special session, “I hoped from the beginning of this process that the [House Investigative] Committee would find no wrongdoing, so we could bring this investigation to a close and put all of our attention on the issues that matter most to Missouri families … Unfortunately, this is where the facts led.”
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer, has so far stood firm in the face of these calls since January, when he admitted to his affair, which took place with the alleged victim before his run for governor.