Government & Politics

St. Louis judge rejects three requests by Greitens’ legal team

Gov. Eric Greitens
Gov. Eric Greitens File

A St. Louis judge has rejected a request to dismiss an indictment charging Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman.

The decision Monday by Circuit Judge Rex Burlison was one of three that went against the Republican governor. The judge also denied Greitens’ request to have him decide the case instead of a jury and refused to disqualify a special assistant prosecutor.

The governor was indicted in February on a felony fourth-degree invasion of privacy charge 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 using a photo as blackmail for the woman to remain silent. He has accused Democratic Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of a politically motivated investigation.

His trial is set for May 14.

Greitens’ lawyers argue the indictment should be dismissed because, they allege, assistant prosecutor Robert Steele “flagrantly misled” the grand jury about Missouri’s invasion-of-privacy law. The defense said Steele misstated the law when he instructed grand jurors that what Greitens did with the photo was “irrelevant.”

Defense lawyer Jim Martin said also argued that there’s no evidence a photo exists or that it was transmitted, pointing out that Greitens’ lover told grand jurors that she never saw a camera or smartphone during the sexual encounter.

Robert Dierker, chief trial assistant for Gardner, told the court that the transmission of the alleged photo can be “circumstantially inferred from the use of the iPhone” because “devices know how to transmit to the cloud.”

“I don’t deny that there is no explicit evidence of transmission presented to the grand jury,” Dierker said.

The governor’s lawyers argued the trial would be best decided by a judge because of “significant legal and evidentiary questions” that require “objectivity and analysis.” They also cited intense pretrial news coverage in their request to waive Greitens’ right to a jury trial. The prosecution objected.

Asked after the hearing about his reaction to the decision, defense lawyer Ed Dowd said, “I’m great with a trial by jury.” He said he and other defense lawyers are veterans of many jury trials in St. Louis and “I think they'll be great.”

Burlison also denied a defense motion to disqualify Ronald Sullivan, a Harvard University law professor hired by Gardner to help the prosecution. Greitens’ team argued that Gardner’s appointment of Sullivan was illegal.

Referring to Sullivan as "an outsider," Martin said it was "dangerous" for someone "with no connection to the city or state and who will not be held accountable as an elected official would."

The judge gave no details in his order.

A St. Louis grand jury on Feb. 22 indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.