Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens wants criminal trial moved up to April 3

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ST. LOUIS — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is expected to ask a judge to move up his criminal trial to start in two weeks, more than a month earlier than scheduled.

Attorneys for the Republican governor at a St. Louis Circuit Court hearing Monday also said they anticipate asking for a bench trial.

Greitens was indicted in February on felony fourth-degree invasion of privacy for allegedly taking an unauthorized partially-nude photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair in 2015, before he was elected.

Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing, accusing Democratic Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of a politically-motivated investigation.

A jury trial is currently slated to start May 14. Defense attorneys said they anticipate asking that the case be moved up to April 3.

"This needs to be heard," Edward L. Dowd Jr., one of Greitens' attorneys, said after the hearing. "The governor is innocent and is entitled to have his case heard and get it over with."

Dowd cited the high amount of publicity the case has received in the request for a bench trial. The circuit attorney's office opposes both moves, spokeswoman Susan Ryan said.

"We believe the citizens of St. Louis, where the crime occurred, should have the opportunity to hear the evidence and make a decision on this case," Ryan said.

The circuit attorney's office had opposed even the May 14 date as too early, saying at previous court hearings that more time was needed to prepare. Prosecutors initially requested a trial date in November.

Defense attorneys said they will file a second motion to dismiss the case, accusing prosecutors of misleading the grand jury over instructions of law. Attorney John Garvey did not elaborate. The first such motion failed.

Chief Trial Assistant Robert Dierker called the claim "patently without merit."

Greitens' lawyers also filed a motion Sunday asking the court to disqualify Harvard professor Ronald Sullivan Jr. from the prosecution team. Sullivan was brought in earlier this month as a special assistant prosecutor.

The motion claims that the hiring of Sullivan violates a state law that forbids private attorneys from assisting elected prosecutors. It also notes that Sullivan represents parties other than the state of Missouri as a defense attorney in violation of state statutes.

Ryan said the circuit attorney's office has frequently hired special prosecutors over the years. She said Sullivan is a defense attorney for a client in a federal case in Connecticut, but state law allows him to work as a prosecutor as long as he isn't simultaneously acting as a defense attorney in Missouri.

FOX4 talked with a metro attorney who has no ties to Grietens' case, but with context and courtroom experience, he said this is all about strategy.

Criminal defense attorney John Picerno said the governor’s move is as bizarre as the case itself.

“It’s still very unique that a criminal defendant would attempt to move his trial up -- almost unheard of," Picerno said. "This is unique because it’s not a crime that the governor committed during his official duties as the governor. This is sort of a private life thing and, of course, you have the National Enquirer aspect of it because it’s related to sex and an extra-marital affair.”

Picerno said most of the time when a criminal case is filed, the prosecutor has already done their investigative work.

“The situation is kind of flipped here," he said. "Almost in every case, the defense is looking to delay things in order to be prepared.”

The metro lawyer said this case didn’t begin in a traditional manner.

“It wasn't generated with any police report from any official police department first," Picerno said. "It was sent to the prosecutor's office for review. That is really unique, and it draws a lot of red flags as to what's going on."

He said a defendant will often wave his right to a jury trial when he believes the case can be settled as a matter of law, meaning “the legal basis behind the bringing of the charge is questionable.”

“They sort of don’t want to have the emotion of average citizens who would be on the jury deciding those particular legal actions," Picerno said. "It’s my understanding that they feel strongly that they have strong legal basis for the dismissal of the charges, and they want the judge to make that call rather than a jury of citizens.”

Whether a jury or a judge is up to the person charged; Picerno said law dictates it’s the defendant’s right.

He said the bottom line is: “Did the governor break the law? That’s ultimately what it comes down to, did he follow the law or not?”

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