Greitens case: Judge to consider disqualifying prosecutors
ST. LOUIS — The legal battle between lawyers from Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and St. Louis prosecutors is escalating, with a judge considering Tuesday a request to disqualify the circuit attorney's office from a felony case over Greitens' use of charity donor list for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
Defense lawyers in a court filing Monday asked Circuit Judge Rex Burlison to require a special prosecutor in the computer tampering case in which Greitens is accused of obtaining the charity donor list without permission from The Mission Continues, the St. Louis-based veterans charity Greitens founded. Chief among their concerns were the actions of William Tisaby, a former FBI agent hired by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to investigate Greitens in a separate case in which he is charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking an unauthorized and compromising photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015, before he was elected.
Greitens has denied criminal wrongdoing in both cases and called Gardner a "reckless liberal prosecutor." A hearing on the defense request for a special prosecutor is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Defense attorneys say Tisaby lied when he said he did not take notes when he and Gardner on Jan. 29 interviewed the woman with whom Greitens had an affair. A videotape of the interview provided to defense lawyers earlier this month appears to show Tisaby taking notes.
Defense attorneys argued in their court filing that the prosecutor's office "has conceded that its lead investigator in the invasion of privacy case has given false testimony under oath. It further appears undisputed that the Circuit Attorney was aware of this false testimony and, in fact, elicited some of it."
In a filing in response to the motion, Gardner said the defense argument "presents the very real prospect that courts will be called upon to appoint a special prosecutor in every case where the defendant has aggressively attacked the methods and conduct of the prosecutor in one case, to preclude the prosecution of other meritorious cases against the defendant."
The judge already has declined to dismiss the invasion of privacy case over mistakes Tisaby made. Tisaby has not returned phone and email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
During a hearing Monday, Gardner said Tisaby is no longer the lead investigator in the invasion of privacy case. Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Steele said Anthony Box, recently hired to lead investigations in the office, is in charge.
Attorneys for the Republican governor also are asking that Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley's office be blocked from investigating Greitens, citing a conflict of interest because Hawley called on Greitens to resign after a special House committee released a report earlier this month with testimony alleging Greitens was sexually aggressive toward the woman with whom he had the affair. A hearing on that request is Thursday in Cole County.
Gardner's office said Greitens is seeking to distract from his troubles, including possible impeachment efforts by the Legislature.
"The defendant's motivation is transparent: he wishes to disable both the Circuit Attorney and the Attorney General — the responsible elected officers charged with enforcement of the criminal laws — from proceeding on a criminal charge, in an obvious effort to delay the cause so as to deflect the General Assembly from pursuing its own agenda. The Court should not aid or abet this gambit," a Monday court filing said.
Meanwhile Tuesday, the attorney for the ex-husband of the woman involved in the affair confirmed he was issued a subpoena by a House investigatory committee concerning $100,000 in anonymous payments to the attorney's firm. Al Watkins said he will be "as cooperative as possible."
Watkins disclosed Monday that a courier delivered two $50,000 payments to his office in January, just before the governor admitted to the affair.