For months, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens cried that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner was on a politically-motivated “witch hunt.” It was actually more like a deer hunt. One in which the first-timer with the rifle repeatedly misfires as the white-tailed buck leaps out of sight.
Her incompetence benefited our soon-to-be-ex governor at every turn. But the deal she just struck with Greitens also benefits Gardner, in ways that strike us as somewhere between irregular and downright dishonorable.
It’s fine that in return for Greitens’ resignation, Gardner agreed to dismiss a felony computer-tampering charge against him. But it’s not fine that whole sections of the deal are under seal — redacted and hidden from public view. And it’s unacceptable that the deal indemnifies Gardner and her team from any civil liability in either the tampering case or the felony invasion of privacy case she so botched that it had to be dropped.
What deal might she have gotten if protecting her own derrière hadn’t been so top of mind? Might Greitens have been willing to plead guilty, even to a reduced charge? We’ll never know now.
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Perhaps Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who is still investigating the governor’s alleged sexual misconduct, will be able to salvage a case from the remains of Gardner’s flailing. If she can’t, Greitens will soon be touring the country selling his book on how though he never broke the law, he fought the swamp and the swamp won.
Gardner spokeswoman Susan Ryan says that the deal’s provision protecting the prosecutor and her office “was included in an effort to protect the city from having to pay to defend frivolous lawsuits.”
Maybe not so frivolous. Gardner said she had no choice but to drop the invasion of privacy charge that grew out of Greitens’ former hairdresser’s account that he’d sexually coerced her, slapped her and threatened to distribute a semi-naked photo of her if she exposed his behavior. Gardner had no choice but to drop it, that is, after the judge ruled that he’d allow Greitens’ attorneys to depose Gardner about whether she knew that a private investigator she’d hired onto the case had committed perjury. The investigator, William Don Tisaby, took the Fifth more than 50 times in a deposition. Just as the governor was expected to do if he ever testified before the House committee investigating him.
We second St. Louis University law professor John Ammann, who told The Star that the ethics of sealing significant provisions in the agreement are extra dicey since the deal ties Greitens’ criminal case to his threat of a civil lawsuit against Gardner: “There’s all kinds of trouble with it. What the hell is the redacted stuff? The public should be able to see the entire agreement. This is about the governor.”
Both Greitens and Gardner want to move on asap, under cover of those redactions. “Now it’s time for all of us to come together,” Gardner said, to “focus on building a place where people feel they are heard.” Hear this: Right as it is that Greitens is resigning, only justice makes victims feel heard. And what a terrible coda to Eric Greitens’ brief political career that he goes out as he governed, in secrecy.