Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens may well end up wishing he’d been prosecuted by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who is new in her job, rather than by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who is not.
But the point of appointing Baker — and St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison was wise to do so — is not to go harder or easier on Greitens, either in pursuing the original invasion of privacy charge against him, or any other charge stemming from his behavior with his former hairdresser.
Instead, with this appointment, Missourians can be confident that Baker will be guided by the facts, by her long experience as a prosecutor and by her view of the “measured” approach that prosecutors must stick to, politics and personal feelings aside.
In a recent interview about Burlison’s ruling that the hairdresser’s full name could be used in court, a member of the editorial board asked Baker if she knew why other charges hadn’t been brought in connection with the hairdresser’s allegations of sexual and physical assault.
First, of course, Baker said she didn’t have access to all of the evidence. “I do not know what facts she has,” she said of Gardner.
“I did read what’s out publicly. It gets real close to the line” and would seem to raise the possibility of other charges. “There were absolutely elements of force — they were in his home, with differences in physical size and the power differential. All of those are factors.”
“But,” Baker said, and this is key, “a prosecutor has to be measured. Our job is to seek justice, and that may mean you don’t win. The defense gets to be an advocate, but a prosecutor’s role is broader than that.”
After her appointment was announced, both Republicans and Baker’s fellow Democrats praised the choice.
One legal colleague called her “the gold standard,” and we agree.
Missouri’s answer to Robert Mueller — before he was roughed up by the president and his partisan defenders, anyway — she won’t be out to get Eric Greitens, but to see that any case against him is pursued correctly.
Baker was appointed on Monday, “with regard to the investigation and possible prosecution of Eric Greitens in alleged criminal activity in regard to an incident on March 21, 2015, and other incidents involving the same victim from that date through September 1, 2015.”
After the announcement, Baker said in a statement that “No elected official relishes involvement in such difficult matters as an investigation of criminal wrongdoing by another official, but we also understand our duty. I directed my staff that we will go about our review of this case as we review any case. It will be thorough, and our decisions, as I have stated before, will be made without fear or favor.”
“Politics, affiliations or other matters beyond the evidence will not play a role,” she said.
That’s not just as it should be but as it has to be.