Embattled Missouri governor Eric Greitens will have to face trial in May despite a judge’s finding that prosecutors violated disclosure procedures. Judge Rex Burlison denied motions to dismiss the felony invasion of privacy charge related to an affair and alleged attempts to keep it quiet. The decision will likely increase already growing pressure on the Republican governor to step down:
A St. Louis judge on Thursday rejected a request from Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to dismiss a felony criminal indictment against him, but sanctioned prosecutors for failing to turn over evidence as soon as they should have. …
Attorneys for Greitens say a private investigator hired by the prosecutor has repeatedly lied to the court. They also allege that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner knew he lied, and that her office has withheld evidence from the defense. …
On Monday, Greitens’ attorney Jim Martin said 11 pages of private investigator William Tisaby’s notes from a deposition of a friend of the woman, requested weeks ago, were not turned over until Sunday, after Martin threatened to go to court to ask for them.
Greitens’ attorneys have also argued that Tisaby has repeatedly lied to the court. For example, he said he didn’t take notes during an interview of the woman, but photos and a video showed him taking notes. In another instance, Tisaby claimed he checked his laptop for notes during a deposition lunch break, but later said the laptop wasn’t even in St. Louis, defense attorneys said.
Burlison essentially validated the defense’s complaints but disagreed that they amounted to irreparable damage to the process. His ruling allows defense attorneys to re-depose witnesses in light of new evidence in the case belatedly disclosed under pressure. Burlison had some tough words for the prosecutor, especially for the dismissive way she responded to legitimate defense complaints about their behavior:
After recapping the motions and responses that had been filed in the case since April 4, Burlison said that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had a “duty to be impartial” and ensure that all defendants be accorded “procedural justice.” Prosecutors have an obligation to turn over certain documents and material that might be favorable to defendants, but Burlison said Gardner’s office had committed “sanctionable” violations of those rules and obligations.
Burlison said it was “troubling” to him that prosecutors called sanctions “inappropriate” in a court filing Wednesday and described defense motions as “frivolous.”
But Burlison said he would not impose the ultimate sanctions of striking pleadings in the case, excluding witnesses or evidence, or dismissing the case.
Even before the ruling, some Missouri Republicans had already called on Greitens to resign. That came after Attorney General Josh Hawley — another Republican, running against Claire McCaskill for her Senate seat in November — announced that he found probable cause to investigate Greitens for converting a charity donor list for personal gain:
Greitens insisted that he would not step down, even if the criminal case went to trial:
I will not be resigning the Governor’s office. In three weeks, this matter will go to a court of law—where it belongs and where the facts will prove my innocence. Until then, I will do what the people of Missouri sent me here to do: to serve them and work hard on their behalf.
Greitens’ team can appeal today’s ruling in hopes of gaining steeper sanctions on prosecutors, perhaps staving off a trial by getting a dismissal without prejudice from a higher court. That would leave prosecutors almost no time to refile the case before the statute of limitations runs out next week. That seems like a long shot, however, which leaves Missouri and its Republican leaders with the spectacle of a sitting governor being tried over allegations arising from an admitted extramarital sexual affair of — at the very least –a rather embarrassing nature. At worst, it looks very Harvey Weinstein-ish, as Allahpundit noted last week, on the basis of the testimony from the alleged victim. Small wonder Republicans want Greitens to resign now, rather than get dragged through back-and-forth debate over testimony like this next month:
Perhaps today’s ruling will change Greitens’ mind. If not, batten down the hatches in Missouri. The legislature is already considering impeachment, and at least one Republican has signed on as a co-sponsor to the effort.