FILE – In this Jan. 20, 2018, file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens listens to a question during an interview in his office at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo., where he discussed having an extramarital affair in 2015 before taking office. His political future faces a big test Wednesday, April 11 when a special legislative committee issues an investigative report related to the affair. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Jury selection in the criminal trial of first-term Republican Missouri Governor Eric Greitens took longer than had originally been anticipated. It started last Thursday and the trial was originally set to proceed on Monday but when Monday rolled around, the selection process was still plodding along.
Opening arguments had been expected to begin Monday. Instead, attorneys were still working through the first phase of jury selection as Greitens’ attorneys methodically questioned people about their beliefs. A second phase will winnow the panel down to 12 jurors and three alternates.
More than half the prospective jurors were being dismissed during initial screenings — some for displaying biases and others due to busy lives. Of those who have advanced to the next selection phase, some did so only after extensive questioning about being able to set aside opinions and discern the facts.
Greitens’ attorney Scott Rosenblum has been particularly focused on any potential jurors with preconceived opinions, even those who have said under repeated questioning that they could be objective and unbiased while hearing testimony.
Legal experts say it’s nearly impossible in high-profile cases to find jurors who know nothing of the basic facts.
Then, late Monday afternoon, came a surprising turn of events — the prosecution was being dropped:
In a stunning development, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner on Monday dropped her prosecution of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in the face of the defense team’s plan to call her as a witness.
Judge Rex Burlison agreed to unseal the transcripts related to his decision to allow Greitens’ legal team to depose the prosecutor.
Scott Rosenblum, a member of Greitens’ team, said the judge’s decision was based on the probability that Gardner had knowledge of perjury committed by a private investigator hired by her office.
“She made herself a witness to the perjury that her investigator created throughout this case and his misconduct. She was the only witness,” Rosenblum said.
Bennett rejected the suggestion that the judge’s decision was unprecedented and noted that Gardner’s decision to drop the case came after the defense filed another motion for dismissal after a search of the governor’s Apple cloud data yielded no evidence of the photograph.
“The case could have proceeded if they were truly ready to go, but rather than answer questions about what happened here, they dismissed it,” Bennett said.
He noted that the issue of whether Gardner could be called to the stand went before the Missouri Court of Appeals on Monday and the appeals court sided with Burlison.
Greitens and his defense team have moved several times for a dismissal previously, citing the lack of evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. And there has been more-than-good reason to characterize this as a political prosecution whatever one’s personal opinion of the Governor may be. But it was the specter of the Circuit Attorney being called to testify herself as a witness which seems to have sealed the deal. One of his attorneys, Ed Dowd, was interviewed on the radio this morning and made the following observation:
“If he was a Democrat — and I am a Democrat — if Eric Greitens was a Democrat, he never would have been charged.”
This isn’t the end of the Governor’s woes by any means. He still faces charges for filing a false campaign disclosure report in Cole County, Missouri, and for felony computer tampering (also filed by Kim Gardner’s office). Moreover, the Missouri House begins a special session this Friday in order to continue investigating and debating whether impeachment is warranted.
It may also be the beginning to added woes for the Circuit Attorney:
An attorney on Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ legal team is filing a police report against St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and her investigator in the Greitens case, William Tisaby, for alleged misconduct and perjury.
Attorney Ed Dowd said the prosecutor’s office dropped its invasion of privacy case against Greitens because there was no evidence of criminal activity against the governor. Judge Rex Burlison had approved the defense team’s request to allow Gardner to take the stand.
Attorney Dowd said Gardner hired Tisaby as a private investigator rather than solicit the assistance of St. Louis police. The defense claims it has proof that Tisaby lied under oath and that he was paid well over his $10,000 retainer fee. Tisaby pleaded the Fifth during pre-trial hearings.
Dowd released the following statement just before noon Tuesday:
“Today, we will be filing a police report with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department regarding the perjury committed by the lead investigator for the Circuit Attorney’s Office in the case against Governor Greitens.
“That case collapsed yesterday and was dismissed. It was dismissed because there was no evidence of any crime. But the misconduct in this case should be addressed.
“That includes the lead investigator lying about his methods and the evidence he collected. In fact, that lead investigator, William Tisaby, refused to testify in a deposition about his perjury and misbehavior in the case, and he pleaded the Fifth in response to over 50 questions.
“Our defense team has over 100 years of experience combined, and we have never seen such outrageous misconduct. In addition to perjury, that includes $100,000 in secret cash payments for a witness or witnesses, payments that were concealed from our defense team by the Circuit Attorney’s Office. And if that weren’t enough, the Circuit Attorney and William Tisaby also met a number of times in secret with a major witness in the case. By law, both the Circuit Attorney and William Tisaby were required to testify about what was said and done in those secret meetings. Both refused to do so.
“This misconduct must be investigated. I have a lot of confidence in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and I am sure they will get to the bottom of the misdeeds and illegal activity in this case.”
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