Judge Lets Indictment of Missouri Governor Go Forward
An indictment charging Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy will go forward as scheduled and a jury will decide the case, a judge ruled Monday.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison issued a trio of rulings against the Republican governor, rejecting requests by Greitens' attorneys to dismiss the indictment, disqualify a special assistant prosecutor and have the case decided by the judge instead of a jury.
Greitens was indicted in February for allegedly taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman in 2015. Greitens has admitted to having an extramarital affair with his hairdresser as he was preparing to run for governor in 2015, but has not directly answered questions about whether he took a photo of her and has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
He has accused Democratic Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of a politically motivated investigation.
Greitens' trial is set for May 14.
The governor's attorneys had argued the indictment should be dismissed. They claimed assistant prosecutor Robert Steele made a "flagrant misstatement" to grand jurors about the Missouri's invasion of privacy law by telling them that as long as Greitens took a nonconsensual photo of the women, then what he did with it was "irrelevant."
The charge on which Greitens was indicted also requires transmittal of the photo in a way that it could be accessed by a computer.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Robert Dierker, chief trial assistant for Gardner, told the court that the transmission of the alleged photo can be "circumstantially inferred from the use of the iPhone" because "devices know how to transmit to the cloud."
"I don't deny that there is no explicit evidence of transmission presented to the grand jury," Dierker said.
While asking for a bench trial, the governor's attorney argued the case would be best decided by a judge because of "significant legal and evidentiary questions" that require "objectivity and analysis." They also cited intense pretrial news coverage in their request to waive Greitens' right to a jury trial. The prosecution objected, and Burlison rejected the request.
Greitens' lawyers also had sought to disqualify Harvard professor Ronald Sullivan Jr. from serving on the prosecution team. They argued that Sullivan was violating Missouri law by representing parties other than the state of Missouri as a defense attorney. But the prosecutor's office said there was no problem with Sullivan serving as a defense attorney in a federal case in Connecticut, so long as he wasn't simultaneously acting as a defense attorney in Missouri.