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Greitens' criminal charges are gone, but legal troubles continue

Greitens' criminal charges are gone, but legal troubles continue

June 10th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

As of this weekend, now-former Gov. Eric Greitens no longer is facing any state criminal charges.

But the lack of pending criminal charges doesn't mean the former governor, 44, is out of the legal woods.

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Confide

Greitens still is a defendant in the civil lawsuit challenging his — and his governor's office staff's — use of the Confide smartphone application that erases messages after they've been read.

St. Louis lawyer Mark Pedroli has argued using the Confide app violated the state's Sunshine and open records laws.

Kansas City attorney Robert Thompson has told Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem the defendants can't produce messages they no longer have.

But Pedroli has countered that supports his argument that laws were violated.

Beetem scheduled the next hearing in that case for June 19.

House Committee subpoenas

Last week, the Missouri House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight suddenly dropped its request for Beetem to enforce subpoenas it had issued, seeking information from two Greitens-related organizations.

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One group was his campaign committee, Greitens for Missouri.

The other was A New Missouri, a not-for-profit formed last year to support Greitens' work as governor and his various initiatives.

The committee was formed under federal IRS regulations that allowed it to keep secret the names of people who donated to it.

The 10-member House committee, chaired by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, sought information that would have shown connections between the two groups which — under federal and state campaign laws — are to operate separately.

Former House Speaker and U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway — now a private practice lawyer representing the two groups — on June 1 asked Beetem to delay his order requiring the groups to provide the subpoenaed information, because the House committee's instructions involved investigating the legal situations and possible impeachment of "Gov. Eric Greitens" and Greitens no longer was "governor" after 5 p.m. June 1.

In the motion to dismiss its lawsuit to enforce the subpoenas, former Pettis County Prosecutor Mark Kempton, the committee's special counsel, told Beetem: "The (committee) believes the requested records are relevant to its charge and should be produced for the committee and all Missourians to see."

Kempton said the committee was "reviewing its options with respect to obtaining the requested records."

House Communications Director Trevor Fox told the News Tribune last week: "I don't think we will know more about the committee's next steps until next week, possibly Monday."

The Legislature still is meeting in its self-called special session, which can last up to 30 days and was called specifically to consider possible discipline including impeachment against Greitens.

But the only punishment — if an elected official is convicted of impeachment charges — is removal from office, and Greitens already has left the governor's office.

So, observers aren't sure what the special session can do, legally, after it hears from new Gov. Mike Parson on Monday evening.

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House Speaker Todd Richardson formed the special committee at the end of February, after Greitens first was indicted, then expanded its duties and membership going into the special session.

Before the special session, the original, seven-member panel had issued two reports about allegations against the governor.

The first, released April 11, was based on closed-door testimony the committee received from Greitens' former hairdresser — identified as the woman with whom he'd had an affair — as well as with a couple of her friends and her now-ex-husband.

The ex-husband secretly had made a recording of her confession of the first days of the affair then released that information to news media. KMOV-TV, St. Louis, aired a story Jan. 10, the same day as Greitens' 2018 State of the State address to lawmakers.

(Under Missouri law, because he knew he was making the recording and was involved in the conversation, the ex-husband's recordings are not illegal.)

Although the affair occurred in 2015, at the beginning of Greiten's campaign for governor, his legal troubles about it didn't begin until after the story was publicized this year.

The second report, released May 2, involved information the committee had received about The Mission Continues' donor and email lists.

Officials from that organization told the House committee it had given Greitens the lists as he was leaving the organization's chief executive officer's post — and only for the purpose of notifying donors of the changes at the top of the charity's leadership.

Federal regulations say not-for-profit groups cannot let campaigns use their contact information unless that information is made available to all campaigns for the same race, and the House committee said that was not done.

In both cases, Greitens said he's been the victim of a political witch hunt and that the House committee reports were unfair because they didn't include his side.

Barnes and others noted Greitens had numerous offers to appear before the committee, but he never did.

He was subpoenaed to appear June 4 but was no longer in office when that date came last week.

On his Facebook page, Greitens urged supporters not to let "the liberals" get away with undoing the changes his administration had made to improve Missourians' lives.

But Greitens' opponents have noted his biggest opposition came from within the now-former governor's own party.

The House committee has not met since May 29, when Greitens announced his plans to resign.

Some have said Richardson could re-form the committee with a new investigative charge, but so far, the speaker has not said what, if anything, he or the committee will do next.

Lawyers' fees

The governor's office hired two attorneys — Eddie Greim, of Kansas City, and Ross Garber, of Connecticut — to represent the office and Greitens in his official capacity during the House committee's hearings.

On Friday, the Associated Press reported their work resulted in more than $150,000 in legal bills.

The Office of Administration still was reviewing the bills.

And State Auditor Nicole Galloway said on Saturday: "Though there is a new administration, it does not change my responsibility to protect taxpayers.

"I have ongoing concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay the ex-governor's private attorneys, and I'm going to continue to work to get answers."

The attorney general's office has said the governor's office didn't ask for approval to hire the outside counsel.

A New Missouri

Even though the House committee dropped its subpoenas for information from Greitens for Missouri and A New Missouri, a St. Louis lawyer — Elan J. Gross — is pursuing that information under the state's nonprofit and Merchandise Practices laws.

Gross told the News Tribune on Saturday he has yet to hear from A New Missouri, even though he has "now sent four letters to their registered agent and one to their attorneys."

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In one of his letters, shared last week on Facebook, Gross noted: "A New Missouri Inc. is the secretive political organization set up by former Gov. Greitens and his team.

"These types of organizations have been increasingly used to hide political donors and influencers from public disclosure. They are the facilitators of dark money politics."

And, he wrote: "I believe Missourians deserve transparency in their government. I believe we should be able to see who is influencing our elected officials.

"I believe we need big change in business as usual to clean up our state government."

On Saturday, Gross said he also sent a Sunshine Law request to Attorney General Josh Hawley's office, seeking information they may have on A New Missouri's operations.

So far, those letters have not resulted in any court cases.

Canceled charges

On Friday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she won't refile a felony invasion-of-privacy charge that originally was lodged Feb. 22 by a St. Louis grand jury then dismissed May 14 as a jury was being selected for the planned trial in the case.

Baker had been named a special prosecutor in the case after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dismissed the Class D felony, which was after Greitens' attorneys won Circuit Judge Rex Burlison's approval to call the St. Louis prosecutor as a defense witness.

In that case, Greitens had been charged with taking the woman — identified only as "K.S." — into the basement of his family's St. Louis home, blindfolding her and tying her hands to exercise equipment bars.

Then, the charges said, he ripped open the top and the pants he had given her to wear and took a photo, possibly with a cellphone, showing her at least partly exposed body.

The woman maintained she saw a flash and heard what sounded like a camera's clicking but said she wasn't sure if she saw a camera or a phone.

She told the House committee Greitens later told her he destroyed the photo.

Greitens admitted to the affair but denied doing anything criminal. He never answered reporters' direct questions about whether or not he had taken a picture.

Baker said last week that K.S., the main witness against Greitens in that case, was believable, but the investigation found no corroborating evidence to support refiling the felony invasion-of-privacy charge.

And week ago, after Greitens stepped down from the office he'd won in November 2016, Gardner dismissed the theft-by-computer charge against him.

That charge accused Greitens of tampering with a computer by taking donor and email lists from the charity the founded in 2007, The Mission Continues, in late 2014 or 2015 without its permission, then using the names and contact information on the lists to raise nearly $2 million in the early days of his ultimately successful campaign for governor.