'I'm expensive, I’m not free,' says attorney of ex-husband in Greitens case
The attorney for the man who first publicized accusations of blackmail against Gov. Eric Greitens has been issued a subpoena by a Missouri House committee to answer questions about $100,000 in anonymous payments he says he received.
Al Watkins, the St. Louis attorney who represents the ex-husband of Greitens’ alleged victim, told reporters Monday afternoon that a courier delivered two $50,000 payments to his office in early January.
The source was anonymous, he said, and the money came without instructions. Watkins said he was contacted by an intermediary who assured him the money was from a legal, legitimate source. Watkins said he deduced from that conversation that the money should go toward the ex-husband's legal fees.
Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican leading the House investigation, declined comment Tuesday. Watkins did not respond to a request for comment about the subpoena.
Watkins' payment also came up during a Tuesday hearing in the criminal case against Greitens in St. Louis. Greitens' attorneys told the judge that they want access to Watkins' financial records.
Judge Rex Burlison said that Watkins can be deposed in the case and that he plans speak to Watkins about a possible contempt finding after Monday's news conference. The judge has repeatedly warned Watkins about his public statements in the case.
“It seems (with) what happened yesterday that Mr. Watkins may be a witness in this case,” Burlison said.
Greitens' attorney Jim Martin said the ex-husband testified in a deposition that he owes Watkins tens of thousands of dollars and has paid only $1,800 so far.
Greitens was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury in February on one felony count of invasion of privacy. The charge stems from accusations that in 2015 Greitens took a nude photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair — while her hands were bound and she was blindfolded — and threatened to release it if she ever spoke out about their relationship.
The allegations against Greitens became public on Jan. 10, when the woman’s ex-husband provided St. Louis television station KMOV with audio of his then-wife confessing to him in 2015. The recording was made and released without the woman’s knowledge or consent.
The ex-husband testified last month to the House committee that Watkins 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.
Watkins said Monday that the money arrived before Greitens admitted to the affair on Jan. 10.
The House committee has been investigating allegations of misconduct against Greitens since early March. It released a graphic 25-page report detailing accusations of sexual coercion and physical violence against Greitens by the woman with whom he had the affair, and is expected to release a second report pertaining to the governor’s use of a charity’s donor list for his political campaign.
Greitens was charged with a second felony in St. Louis last week over his use of the list.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is handling both felony cases. Greitens’ legal team has sought to block Gardner from serving as prosecutor in the computer tampering case, alleging misconduct in her handling of the original case and contending that creates a conflict of interest.
Greitens’ team has also objected to the possibility that Attorney General Josh Hawley could serve as a special prosecutor because he has called on Greitens to resign. Hawley oversaw the investigation into Greitens’ charity that uncovered alleged evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Prosecutors say disqualifying both the circuit attorney and the state’s attorney general would put the court “into uncharted waters.”
The question of who is paying Watkins for his involvement in the invasion-of-privacy case has been swirling for months. Greitens' attorneys sought to interview former Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple about whether he provided payments to anyone involved in the case. He has vehemently denied the accusation.
And at the same time, it's still unclear who is paying for the governor's defense in the criminal case.
Greitens' supporters set up a nonprofit to bankroll his legal fees. But disclosure paperwork filed last week with the Internal Revenue Service showed it had raised and spent no money during March. If donations were made after April 1, the donors will be kept secret until after the governor’s May 14 criminal trial.
A similar nonprofit formed to cover legal expenses for Greitens' staff has not yet filed disclosure paperwork.