Rules won't let Greitens team question impeachment witnesses

Posted at 4:11 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 17:11:37-04

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri House panel considering whether to try to impeach Gov. Eric Greitens for sexual misconduct and campaign-related allegations endorsed rules Tuesday that would prohibit the governor's attorneys from cross-examining witnesses during a special legislative session.

Greitens' attorneys raised concerns that the rules, which would still need final approval from the full chamber, could diminish public confidence in the potential impeachment process.

The committee was working around some of those concerns by publicly reading aloud the transcripts of the criminal case testimony of a woman who had an extramarital affair with Greitens, a process that could take several days. Those transcripts include some depositions in which the woman was questioned by Greitens' attorneys.

The Republican governor is simultaneously facing potential impeachment by the Missouri House and criminal charges in St. Louis Circuit Court.

During a brief court hearing Tuesday, a judge scheduled Greitens' next court appearance for July 2 on a felony charge of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing the donor list of a charity he founded, The Mission Continues, to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the charity's permission. A Greitens' attorney said the delay could allow time for a grand jury to issue an indictment superseding the original charge, which is standard procedure.

A special prosecutor was appointed Monday to determine whether to refile an invasion-of-privacy charge dismissed last week that had accused Greitens of taking and transmitting a partially nude photo of the woman without her consent in March 2015, before Greitens was elected. That prosecutor also has discretion to file other charges stemming from the affair.

The legislative panel has been investigating many of those same allegations. It released a report in April in which the woman testified that Greitens had restrained, threatened, slapped, shoved, belittled and essentially coerced her into sexual activity at various points during a relationship that at times left her crying and afraid.

Greitens has acknowledged the affair but denied any criminal wrongdoing or violence.

The woman's grand jury testimony and subsequent criminal case depositions taken by Greitens' attorneys have not previously been made public. Before reading them Tuesday, lawmakers briefly debated whether to speak aloud dirty words. They then began by reading her Feb. 15 testimony to a grand jury, with Republican Rep. Don Phillips playing the role of the questioning prosecutor and Democratic Rep. Gina Mitten the role of the woman — each speaking with inflection as if characters in a theatrical play.

The lawmakers took turns. Mitten, for example, later took on the role of prosecutor while Republican Rep. Kevin Austin next read the words of the woman.

Greitens' attorneys said Tuesday that simply reading the transcripts wouldn't satisfy their desire for public cross-examination.

"All the office of the governor is looking for is a process that gets to the truth and does it in a reliable and open way," said attorney Ross Garber, who his representing Greitens' office. By not allowing cross-examination, he said, "the public will not have confidence in the either process or the results."

By contrast, some lawmakers have raised concerns that allowing the governor's lawyers to call and question witnesses during legislative proceedings would infringe on the state constitution's separation of powers.

Phillips said Greitens' lawyers "already had ample time to basically cross-examine everybody" during the criminal court case proceedings.

"So I don't think the cross-examination would be much more than probably just an attempt to almost filibuster our committee, for lack of another way to put it," said Phillips, the panel's vice chairman.

The woman, who has been identified in court filings by her initials K.S., spoke to St. Louis television station KSDK for a story that aired Monday — one week after a prosecutor dismissed a felony charge against Greitens stemming from the affair.

During the interview, the woman was asked if she stood by her testimony to a special legislative committee that Greitens coerced her into a sexual act while she was crying and lying on his basement floor.

"They were hard to talk about. Really, really, really hard to talk about, but I absolutely stand by it," she told KSDK in her first interview since TV station KMOV broke the news of the affair in January.

Asked specifically if Greitens coerced her into something she didn't want to do, she responded: "I mean, ultimately yes. Looking back, it's so hard. I see myself as so vulnerable."