Government & Politics

Greitens’ attorneys seek to disqualify St. Louis prosecutor in second felony case

Hawley says Greitens probe indicates potential felony

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is under investigation by the attorney general's office over his use of a list of donors belonging to a veterans charity to benefit his 2016 campaign.
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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is under investigation by the attorney general's office over his use of a list of donors belonging to a veterans charity to benefit his 2016 campaign.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ attorneys are seeking to disqualify the St. Louis prosecutor from handling the new felony case against him, arguing she has an interest because of her other pending prosecution against the governor.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed the felony computer tampering charges against the Republican governor on Friday after an investigation by Attorney General Josh Hawley into the charity Greitens founded, The Mission Continues.

In a filing Monday to disqualify Gardner from that case, Greitens’ team pointed to Judge Rex Burlison’s conclusion that Gardner had committed sanctionable rules violations during the course of the unrelated felony invasion-of-privacy case that will go to trial next month.

“As such, the Circuit Attorney has a personal motivation to justify the prior charges and conduct by bringing new charges, which the defendant believes to be equally unfounded,” the filing from Greitens’ team states. “It is improper for a prosecutor to have a personal interest in creating another prosecution to distract from the way a prior prosecution was handled.”

Gardner’s office pushed back on this logic in a response Monday.

“Defendant’s motion boils down to this: a defendant’s attack on a prosecutor in one case precludes the prosecution of any other case against him, as it raises an ‘appearance’ that the prosecutor is interested or vindictive, or both, in pursuing the additional case,” Gardner’s office states in its response. “The Court must approach this novel argument with skepticism, particularly where a party may be seeking an advantage by disqualifying the elected prosecutor.”

Gardner’s office argues that the governor’s allegations of misconduct in the invasion-of-privacy case do not establish a vindictiveness in the computer tampering case.

The allegations of misconduct against the prosecutor relate to the role of William Don Tisaby, a private investigator Gardner hired to investigate blackmail allegations against Greitens.

Greitens’ team contends that Tisaby gave false testimony about whether he spoke to Gardner about the alleged victim in that case.

“When it turns out that he was not telling the truth in these matters, he has essentially admitted that the investigations have been tained by politics,” the filing from Greitens’ team states.

The judge in that case has ordered Tisaby to appear for a new deposition by Thursday.

Greitens' attorney Jack Garvey said at a hearing Tuesday Gardner’s office should be disqualified because “the same cast of characters” in the first case has "corroded” into the second case.

“The only thing that can change that is the appointment of a special prosecutor,” Garvey said.

Prosecuting attorney Robert Dierker said Tisaby had “minimal involvement” in the second case and so does not serve as a reason to disqualify Gardner’s office.

The judge did not rule Tuesday whether to disqualify Gardner, but he asked both the defense and prosecution for suggestions on who could serve as special prosecutor if Gardner is disqualified.

Greitens' team also argued that Hawley should be disqualified as a candidate for special prosecutor if the case goes that way. Hawley has made public statements calling for Greitens to resign in recent weeks.

Dierker said disqualifying both the circuit attorney and attorney general would put the court “into uncharted waters.”

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