Likely fearing that she would end up in more legal jeopardy than the accused, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dropped an invasion-of-privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
According to the Associated Press, Gardner’s office said it “dismissed the charge because Judge Rex Burlison granted a request by Greitens’ attorney to call the prosecutor as a witness.”
Gardner had every reason to fear the witness stand. Gretiens’ attorneys have accused the private investigator Gardner hired of perjury and have accused Gardner of suborning it.
Gardner’s office asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor in the hope of refiling the felony invasion-of-privacy charge. This is a face-saver and is not likely to happen.
Jim Bennett, an attorney for Greitens, asked Judge Rex Burlison to unseal all the documents in the case, and he has agreed to do so. This does not bode well for Gardner and her team. Although the media have been reluctant to report Gardner’s transparent failures and evasions, Burlison has been growing increasingly impatient.
In truth, the case has been a farce from the beginning. The nonsense came to a head three weeks ago when the defense attorneys learned that the prosecution’s chief investigator, a man the prosecution has compared to Inspector Clousseau, was not about to show up for his scheduled deposition. Circuit Attorney Gardner allegedly could not reach him to find out why he was not coming.
Defense attorneys also learned that the investigator, William Tisaby, had contracted his own attorney, Albert Watkins, ostensibly to forestall perjury charges. Watkins did not show up for the deposition either. He did attend a later session and added some unwitting comic relief.
When asked the whereabouts of his client, Tisaby, Watkins said, “He works for a private international and national security firm that does work of significance that is presently involved in a matter of national security in which Mr. Tisaby is intimately involved and working hand in hand with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Said defense attorney James Martin, “I would have to say, Judge, God help this country if that’s true.” Martin explained that Tisaby “wouldn’t be able to pass an FBI background check” given that he had previously lied to the FBI and been demoted because of it.
Watkins is the same attorney who received $100,000 in cash to get the case before the public. At least $50,000 came from a newspaper publisher who had a deep political grudge against Greitens.
The money was delivered to Watkins because the ex-husband of the woman at the center of the case was his client. The fact that Tisaby was now a client of Watkins as well led to another moment of farce in this exchange with Judge Burlison:
THE COURT: All right. So, Mr. Watkins, you represent one of the endorsed witnesses in this case?
MR. WATKINS: Yes, your Honor, [the ex-husband].
THE COURT: And you’re seeking now to represent what has been determined to be the State’s team lead investigator and an integral part of the State’s team?
MR. WATKINS: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: And you’re saying you don’t recognize a conflict?
Burlison recognized the conflict. He disqualified Watkins from representing Tisaby. Subsequently, defense attorneys filed a motion to disqualify Gardner’s office. They claimed that the circuit attorney was aware of Tisaby’s lies and did nothing to discourage them. They also wanted to disqualify Gardner’s office from trying Greitens on a secondary charge, the improper use of a mailing list.
Greitens’ lawyers claimed Gardner had a “personal motivation to justify the prior charges and conduct by bringing new charges, which the defendant believes to be equally unfounded.”
Although the judge did not disqualify Circuit Attorney Gardner, on Monday afternoon she shocked those not paying attention by disqualifying herself.