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House panel reads woman's testimony

House panel reads woman's testimony

May 23rd, 2018 by Bob Watson in Missouri News

FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2018, file photo, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks in Palmyra, Mo. Attorneys defending Greitens against an invasion-of-privacy charge are raising doubts about the testimony of a woman with whom he had an affair. In a court filing dated Sunday, April 8, 2018, his attorneys say the woman testified she never saw Greitens with a camera or phone on the day he is accused of taking a partially nude photo of her while she was blindfolded and bound. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

For nearly seven hours Tuesday, the special House committee investigating Gov. Eric Greitens' legal situation offered a form of reader's theater — with members reading from transcripts of the St. Louis grand jury's interviews of, and Greitens' attorneys' depositions with, the woman at the heart of Greitens' admitted affair and accusations he invaded her privacy.

Working two at a time, they took turns reading the questions asked by various attorneys and the woman's answers.

Chairman Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said those documents were obtained from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office — and those readings likely would take most of the week.

Although much of her testimony in the new transcripts generally matched what she told the House committee in March, one new piece of information came from her appearance before the St. Louis grand jury: She said one of Greitens' lawyers had contacted her in January, shortly after the affair became public, and had asked what she wanted out of it.

When her attorney said she didn't want to be a part of it, the woman testified, Greitens' lawyer said: "She could come out and say that none of this is true."

Ed Dowd, of St. Louis, one of the governor's personal attorneys, told the Associated Press the testimony was "double hearsay," adding: "We never gave her any suggestion of what she should say."

The committee expects to hear from Scott Faughn at 1 p.m. this afternoon.

He is the Missouri Times publisher who, reportedly, delivered $50,000 to St. Louis lawyer Albert Watkins, who represents the now-ex-husband of the hairdresser who had an affair in 2015 with then-future Gov. Greitens.

Watkins is expected to testify to the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The committee was expanded to 10 members last week, and is to recommend whether the full House should take any action against the governor, including the possibility of passing articles of impeachment that could lead to his removal from office.

The panel began its meeting Tuesday by approving the resolution that will guide its work during the special session, including a provision that only committee members will question witnesses during hearings.

That's a rejection of requests from Greitens' attorneys to be able to cross-examine those witnesses.

"That's when you really find out what the truth is," Dowd told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "This really is an adversarial situation — where the accusations that have been made are extremely damaging to Eric Greitens.

"I think, in those circumstances, you should have a right to cross-examine and bring out the things that are inconsistent with the story that we've been told."

Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, an attorney and one of the committee's three new members, said: "I think the rules are designed to create a process that's more open and more fair — that we'll be able to get out evidence from both sides and to prove the veracity of the evidence, the accuracy of the evidence (and) make sure the evidence that we receive is of the highest quality.

"I do lament that cross-examination is not possible under these rules but I think we've tried to address that in other ways that I hope (will) create a product that everyone can rely upon and have confidence in."

Co-Chair Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, a retired Highway Patrol officer, said: "If the cross-examination was a typical cross-examination, it might be OK — (but) I think they've already had ample time to basically cross-examine everybody.

"So, I don't think the cross-examination would be much more than probably just an attempt to almost filibuster our committee."

Attorney Eddie Greim, of Kansas City, told reporters: "We'll have to see how things unfold, but I think right now, there's reason for concern.

"(As) we have a dry reading of the testimony, questions will occur to people, and they'll wonder why they weren't asked."

Ross Garber, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C., added: "I think all the office of the governor wants is a process that gets to the truth, and does it in an honorable and open way.

"Normally, the way that happens is to take testimony in public, subject to cross-examination, with participation by both sides — that's how you get to the truth."

The governor's office hired Greim and Garber to represent the office and Greitens in his official capacity.

Garber has represented other governors around the nation, when they faced impeachment.

"Shutting out the office of the governor and the governor," he told reporters, "leads to a process in which the public will not have confidence in the process or the results."

Most of the committee's readings Tuesday focused on a 400-plus page deposition of the woman, taken by Greitens' attorneys in April 2018, questioning and challenging her over her story about a March 2015 encounter with Greitens in the basement of his family's Maryland Avenue home in St. Louis' Central West End.

That deposition also included details of a "FaceTime" conversation she had with Greitens later that year, while she was in Arizona on a personal vacation, and whether she opened her robe so he could see her partly naked body.

The deposition questions also focused on the woman's failing marriage and how that relationship affected her visit to Greitens' basement when, she said, all she had wanted to do was talk with him about why he — a married man — was flirting with her.

And she was challenged about her belief Greitens took a picture of her while she was at least partly nude.

She has testified there was a "flash" and a sound like an iPhone taking a picture and Greitens threatened to share the picture with others if she ever told about the encounter.

She also has said Greitens told her he had destroyed the picture and that she never saw one.