Prosecutors don't have photo at heart of Greitens case

Posted at 4:47 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 17:47:15-05

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis prosecutors do not have the photo at the heart of the indictment of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens but told a judge Wednesday that they plan to get it.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and assistant prosecutor Robert Steele were in court along with Greitens' lawyers for a hearing in which Circuit Judge Rex Burlison set a May 14 trial date for Greitens on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge.

The Republican governor was indicted last week, accused of taking an unauthorized photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair during a sexual encounter in the basement of his St. Louis home in March 2015, before he was elected.

Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing. In a January interview with The Associated Press and in subsequent interviews and news conferences, he has declined to say if he took a photo of the woman.

During the court hearing, defense attorney Jim Bennett told the judge he was informed by prosecutors "that the photo in the indictment doesn't exist."

Steele told Burlison that Bennett's characterization was wrong. He said prosecutors don't have the photo "yet."

"I did not tell them the picture doesn't exist. I told them we don't have it in our possession at this time," Steele said. "We plan to get that picture."

Steele did not elaborate. Attorneys from both sides declined comment after the hearing. Gardner's spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, would not discuss the photo but said Greitens' attorneys continue to "mischaracterize the statements we make regarding the facts of this case, and that's disappointing."

The trial scheduling comes as members of the Missouri House have launched their own bipartisan investigation that could determine whether to initiative impeachment proceedings against Greitens, once considered a rising star in national Republican politics.

All that is swirling around Greitens was part of the reason Burlison agreed to a May trial, not the November date requested by prosecutors. Steele cited a need for further investigation before the trial begins, noting that the pre-indictment investigation was rushed because the statute of limitations for invasion of privacy would have run out in March.

Burlison said the earlier date is necessary in part because the case has ripples in the state Capitol. A May 14 trial would come during the final week of the annual legislative session.

"This case affects the course of business for the state of Missouri," Burlison said.

Missouri Ethics Commission records show that Republican consultant Aaron Baker registered Wednesday to lobby on behalf of Greitens at the Missouri Capitol. Baker had registered last week to lobby on behalf of the Dowd Bennett law firm. Baker also registered as a lobbyist Wednesday for Joplin businessman David Humphreys, a major contributor to Greitens' campaign committee.

Greitens, his lawyers and the state Republican Party have said the investigation and indictment are politically motivated. Greitens called Gardner, a Democrat, a "reckless liberal prosecutor" in a statement last week.

Gardner's office submitted a court filing Tuesday listing evidence it was supplying to Greitens' defense team, including a photo of the woman and emails between Greitens and the woman. Another attorney for Greitens, Edward L. Dowd Jr., said that photo was "a publicly posted professional headshot" and not the compromising photo the indictment alleges Greitens took.

Gardner on Tuesday confirmed that her office hired a private company, Enterra LLC of Michigan, to perform the investigation that led to the indictment, rather than relying on St. Louis police. Dowd said an open records request revealed the company has already been paid at least $10,000. Ryan said she did not immediately have updated information on the amount paid to Enterra.

The Missouri House has formed a seven-member committee to investigate the allegations that led to Greitens' indictment. The panel would be allowed to compel testimony and evidence using subpoenas. In some cases, information could be redacted to protect the identity of witnesses, a resolution says. The committee also would be able to hire independent investigators, special counsel, court reporters and other personnel with House funds. The panel would have 40 days to produce a report but could take longer.