'I'm expensive, I’m not free,' says attorney of ex-husband in Greitens case
The attorney for the man who first accused Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens of blackmail said Monday that he received $100,000 from an anonymous source in January.
Al Watkins, the St. Louis attorney who represents the ex-husband of Greitens’ alleged victim, confirmed the payments, which came in two $50,000 increments, while talking to reporters shortly after a St. Louis judge ruled that he could not also represent an investigator in the case.
The decision of the ex-husband to go public with the allegations that Greitens had photographed his ex-wife without her consent to keep her from speaking about an affair has led to a felony indictment in St. Louis and a Missouri House investigation that could lead to impeachment.
Watkins said he did not know the source of the money but thinks it was delivered to deal with fallout from the affair's disclosure. It was dropped off by a person who appeared to be a courier, he said.
"What I can tell you (is) we have received, in fact actively solicited, much like the governor, as much money as possible from as many sources as possible," Watkins said.
When asked whether he was using the money, Watkins said, “I’m expensive. I’m not free."
The ex-husband testified last month to the House committee that his attorney had set up a trust for legal aid.
“My lawyer has a trust account that someone put something in … to cover lawyer fees and all the things that were about to happen to me financially because of this fallout, but I had spent 15,000 or so dollars of my own prior to all of this, trying to keep all of this quiet, and everything exploded underneath me,” the ex-husband said, according to transcripts released this month.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, who is leading the House investigation, declined to comment or even listen to a question about Watkins' payment.
Greitens and his legal team did not comment on the revelation.
Watkins said his client initially did not want the story of his ex-wife's affair with Greitens to become public but spoke out only after repeated interview requests from media outlets.
“My client didn’t use the recording during the divorce (proceedings). My client wanted this story to be suppressed forever,” Watkins said.
However, the woman testified to the House committee that after her ex-husband had confronted her about the affair, he repeatedly threatened to ruin Greitens. He made the recording of her speaking about her sexual encounter with the governor without her knowledge or permission.
Greitens will go to trial next month for felony invasion of privacy based on the allegations first made public in January when the recording was shared with media outlets. The governor now also faces an unrelated charge of felony computer tampering after an investigation by Attorney General Josh Hawley related to the governor's charity, The Mission Continues.
Judge Rex Burlison last week rejected a motion from Greitens' attorneys to dismiss the invasion-of-privacy case based on allegations that prosecutors had withheld evidence, but the judge also scolded prosecutors.
On Monday, the judge ordered an investigator hired by prosecutors to appear by Thursday to give a second deposition. Burlison said he would consider additional relief if investigator William Don Tisaby did not show up.
Greitens' attorney Jim Martin said that the governor's legal team had expected Tisaby to be available Monday for the deposition, which was ordered last week. Greitens' lawyers have accused Tisaby of committing perjury when answering questions during a defense deposition about his interviews with the alleged victim.
Greitens' lawyers also objected to Tisaby being represented by Watkins. Burlison agreed that Watkins could not represent Tisaby because of the conflict of interest.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said she tried to reach Tisaby to appear and did not know he would not be available until Monday morning.
Defense attorneys also asked to see the cellphone of the woman with whom Greitens had the affair. Scott Simpson, the woman’s attorney, objected to that request because it would be an invasion of privacy.
Burlison ordered that both the woman’s phone and her ex-husband’s phone be made available for a third-party special master to retrieve information that is relevant to Greitens’ defense.
First assistant circuit attorney Robert Steele said everything had been turned over to defense attorneys.
“I hope I don’t have to sit up in here and tell anyone not to destroy evidence,” Burlison said. “I want that to be abundantly clear, not to destroy anything related to this case.”
Hawley: Greitens' request 'frivolous'
In another development, Hawley shrugged off an attempt by Greitens to block his investigation into the governor's alleged use of The Mission Continues’ donor list for political fundraising, calling Greitens' request for a restraining order "frivolous."
Hawley's office filed a response that sought to flick away arguments in Greitens' petition last week for a temporary restraining order, which called for a special prosecutor to replace Hawley.
Greitens argued that Hawley, because he called for Greitens' resignation on April 11, could not carry on with the investigation into the governor's handling of the donor list. Hawley's call for Greitens' resignation stemmed from the House committee's report.
Hawley said in his filing that his comments about the House report don't apply to the attorney general's investigation into The Mission Continues.
"Mr. Greitens' argument is frivolous, and his verified petition constitutes a vexatious attempt to interfere with the orderly pursuit of justice," said Hawley's response, filed in Cole County Circuit Court.
Hawley's filing said his office has issued 15 civil investigative demands, gathered hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and interviewed multiple key witnesses.
Hawley last week announced that he lacked jurisdiction to file charges related to the charity and referred evidence to the St. Louis prosecutor.
But Gardner could ask the court to appoint Hawley as a special prosecutor in the case.
"She's evaluating her options," said Susan Ryan, Gardner's spokeswoman.
One option would be to ask the court to appoint Hawley as a special prosecutor. Alternatively, Gardner could ask Hawley whether she can appoint him or one of his attorneys as a special assistant circuit attorney who would report to her and help her prosecute the case. Or she could proceed with prosecution of the case by herself.
Hawley has said multiple times that he stands ready to assist with the case if needed.