With two weeks to go before Gov. Eric Greitens is scheduled to go to trial on a felony invasion of privacy charge, his attorneys are asking a judge to prohibit testimony from the pivotal witness — the woman involved in an affair with him.
Greitens is accused of taking a nonconsensual photo of the woman while she was at least partially nude in 2015, before he was elected. His trial begins May 14 in St. Louis.
Defense attorneys want the woman banned from testifying because of the "gross misconduct" of a private investigator who interviewed her for prosecutors. Defense lawyers in a Friday court filing also noted the investigator, William Tisaby, refused to answer questions when he was deposed last week. Judge Rex Burlison didn't rule Monday. He set a hearing for May 7.
Greitens lawyers have accused Tisaby of lying in court and being slow to turn over evidence to the defense. The St. Louis circuit attorney's office acknowledges missteps by Tisaby but says his actions haven't tainted the case.
The woman's testimony is crucial, especially since there is no indication prosecutors have the photo Greitens allegedly took. Spokeswoman Susan Ryan declined to discuss evidence, but Greitens' attorneys have repeatedly stated in court that there is no photo.
Greitens, a Republican, has faced increased calls for his resignation since a special House committee released a report that included testimony from the woman that Greitens spanked, slapped and shoved her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid. He also faces a second unrelated felony charge of computer data tampering for his use of a donor list from a veterans charity he founded for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
House committee investigating Greitens releases report comparing woman's testimonyRead more
During a Monday court hearing in St. Louis, Greitens' attorney said Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn had provided a $50,000 payment in January to the law firm representing the woman's ex-husband, who had secretly recorded his wife discussing her encounter with Greitens.
Faughn said in an internet video Monday that he had hired the attorney, Al Watkins, because he was working on a book about the 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
Greitens' spokeswoman described it as a payoff to "the people working to take down the governor."
Watkins did not return messages seeking comment. But during a hearing Monday in the midst of the deposition, defense attorney Jim Martin said Faughn provided the first $50,000 payment to Watkins' law firm in January, just before Greitens admitted to the affair.
Watkins has said he doesn't know who actually provided the money.
State Rep. Jay Barnes, the chairman of the House investigatory committee, said the House has subpoenaed Watkins and also will issue a subpoena to Faughn.
Hawley reviewing Greitens' social media use
Now Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is reviewing Greitens' social media use following questions about his compliance with the state's open records law.
An earlier review by Hawley's office concluded Greitens did not have to provide records related to his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts, such as private messages and names of blocked users. Hawley's spokeswoman, Mary Compton, said in a statement Monday that the inquiry was reopened based on "new information."
The move comes after the Kansas City Star asked Hawley's office about emails that appear to show a state employee, Greitens spokesman Parker Briden, helped write a Facebook post for the governor before the governor's office created official social media accounts. The post involved funding for a soccer stadium in St. Louis.
"If a state employee was in fact operating campaign social media accounts, the Sunshine Law may well apply to some or all of the records associated with that account," Compton said.
The emails were first reported by St. Louis Public Radio last year, and the Star asked the attorney general's office about them last week.
Briden said the issue is "settled." He said personal accounts "are not state action, the personal accounts are not public forums, and there is no basis for the state to regulate that activity or require it to be subject to the Sunshine Law or records retention laws."