Judge sets trial date for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens
ST. LOUIS — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens will face a May 14 trial on a felony invasion of privacy charge after a St. Louis judge agreed to the date over the objections of prosecutors, who wanted the trial pushed back into the fall in part to allow further investigation.
Circuit Judge Rex Burlison had previously set that date as the tentative beginning of a trial on charges that Greitens took an unauthorized photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair during a sexual encounter in the basement of his home in March 2015. A grand jury indicted Greitens last week.
Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied that he committed a crime.
The trial scheduling comes as members of the Missouri House are launching their own bipartisan investigation, with the ability to subpoena witnesses. That could potentially lead to the impeachment of Greitens, once considered a rising star in national Republican politics.
Greitens, his lawyers and the state Republican Party have said the investigation and indictment are politically motivated. Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is a Democrat.
Gardner and Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Steele argued in court that they need until November to prepare for a trial. They said the investigation was rushed to meet a three-year statute of limitation on the invasion of privacy charge and that they have more investigation to complete.
Burlison, noting the impact the criminal case could have on the functioning of state government, opted for the earlier date.
“I don’t believe the people of Missouri are best served” by a delay, Burlison said.
Steele and Greitens’ attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. also sparred over the existence of the photo of the woman. Dowd said the defense had just been informed that the photo did not exist, but Steele said that he’d told Dowd only that prosecutors didn’t have the photo “yet.”
Gardner declined comment after the hearing. Her spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, would not discuss the photo. “I can say the defense continues to mischaracterize the statements we make regarding the facts of this case, and that’s disappointing,” she said.
Dowd and other members of Greitens’ legal team declined comment after the hearing.
Gardner’s office submitted a court filing Tuesday listing evidence it was supplying to Greitens’ defense team, including a photo of the woman and emails between Greitens and the woman. Dowd said that photo was “a publicly posted professional headshot” and not the compromising photo the indictment alleges Greitens took.
Gardner on Tuesday confirmed that her office hired a private company out of Michigan to perform the investigation that led to the indictment, rather than relying on St. Louis police. Enterra LLC of Rochester Hills, Michigan, conducted the investigation.
The Missouri House also has formed a seven-member committee to investigate the allegations that led to Greitens’ indictment. On Tuesday, committee chairman Rep. Jay Barnes filed a resolution outlining what the panel’s work will involve.
The panel would be allowed to compel testimony and evidence using subpoenas. In some cases, information could be redacted to protect the identity of witnesses, the resolution says.
The committee also would be able to hire independent investigators, special counsel, court reporters and other personnel with House funds.
The panel would have 40 days to produce a report but could take longer. The committee could determine whether to recommend impeachment proceedings to try to remove Greitens from office.