ST. LOUIS (AP / KMOV.com) -- The criminal invasion of privacy case against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was suddenly dismissed Monday.
The announcement came after both sides went into the judge's chambers Monday evening.
Assistant St. Louis Circuit Attorney Ronald Sullivan made the surprise announcement in court after the third day of jury selection in Greitens' trial. Sullivan cited the fact that Greitens' defense attorneys planned to call the St. Louis circuit attorney, whose handling of the case has been under constant criticism by Greitens attorneys.
A spokesperson for Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said Greitens' defense team made a motion to include Gardner as a witness, a motion that Judge Burlison agreed to.
"The court’s order places the Circuit Attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination within the offer of proof by her own subordinates," the statement read. The prosecution filed a dismissal with the court, but the Circuit Attorney's Office said they plan to re-file charges, saying they will research the best "steps forward for this case in light of the court's ruling."
A prosecutor cannot be a witness in a case they are trying, so Gardner's office was forced to dismiss charges.
"It was a great victory and it was a long time coming. This experience has been humbling and I have emerged from it a changed man," Greitens said afterward. "Above all I am sorry for the pain this process and my actions have caused my family, my friends and the people of Missouri."
Greitens' attorneys have criticized Gardner's handling of the case, particularly her hiring of private investigator William Tisaby, who Greitens' lawyers have accused of perjury.
Because of the questions surrounding Tisaby's credibility, Gardner's presence in the interviews he conducted opened her up to being a witness.
"When we started to learn the investigator, Tisaby, was going to have problems, Kim Gardner being part of those interviews becomes an important part to the defense’s case," said defense attorney and legal expert Kristi Flint. "Having the problems with Tisaby, and his credibility issues, then put Gardner as a witness because her investigator is no longer there for her."
A media spokesperson for the Circuit Attorney's Office initially said there were plans to refile and appoint a special prosecutor, but a statement later released walked that back, saying, "The Circuit Attorney and her team will research the best step forward for this case in light of the court’s ruling. The Circuit Attorney will be make a decision to either pursue a special prosecutor or make an appointment of one of her assistants to proceed."
In a press conference after the dismissal, Greitens' attorney Scott Rosenblum expressed confidence Monday's dismissal would be the end of court proceedings on the matter.
"This case is never going to be charged again. There's not going to be a special prosecutor because any prosecutor would look at these facts and never go forward," he said.
Given the problems with this case, the fact they don’t have a photograph, the fact they stopped looking for a photograph, the fact they don’t have anyone who saw a photograph or that it was transmitted to someone, it’s going to be a difficult case" Flint added "I imagine there is going to be a lot of thinking before it’s filed again."
Greitens was accused of taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of an at least partially nude woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.
The woman, who has been identified only as K.S. in court filings, has testified that Greitens bound her hands to exercise equipment in March 2015 in the basement of his St. Louis home, blindfolded her and removed her clothes before she saw a flash and heard what sounded like the click of a cellphone camera. She has said Greitens threatened to disseminate the photo if she spoke of their encounter but later told her he had deleted it.
When the dismissal was announced, Greitens and his defense were seen smiling in court.
Read the full statement from the Circuit Attorney's OfficeSince January, Governor Greitens and his defense team have taken a scorched-earth legal and media strategy and relentlessly attacked the intentions, character and integrity of every person involved in investigating the Governor’s behavior including Missouri House Committee members, the Attorney General, the Circuit Attorney and her team, his victim, her family and those who have called for his resignation.
On February 22, 2018, a Grand Jury indicted Governor Greitens on Felony Invasion of Privacy. The Circuit Attorney has done everything in her power to remain focused on the facts and the truth of this matter. The Circuit Attorney and her team are ready, willing and able to go to trial this week on behalf of the people of the state of Missouri and Mr. Greitens’ victim.
Last week, Governor Greitens made a motion to include the Circuit Attorney as a defense witness. A defendant who wishes to call a prosecutor as a witness must demonstrate a compelling and legitimate reason to do so. Governor Greitens has produced no compelling reason to include the Circuit Attorney as a witness for any purpose. The defense team knows that the tactic of endorsing the Circuit Attorney as a witness is part of their ongoing effort to distract people from the defendant’s actions that brought about both the felony Invasion of Privacy and Computer Tampering charges against him.
22nd Circuit Judge Rex Burlison made an unprecedented decision by granting a request by Governor Greitens’ defense team to endorse the Circuit Attorney as a witness for the defense. The court’s order places the Circuit Attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination within the offer of proof by her own subordinates.
While the court has other remedies, such as calling the private attorney of K.S. as a witness, it has chosen not to do so. When the court and the defense team put the state in the impossible position of choosing between her professional obligations and the pursuit of justice, the Circuit Attorney will always choose the pursuit of justice. The court’s order leaves the Circuit Attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial. Therefore, the court has left the Circuit Attorney with no other legal option than to dismiss and refile this matter.
The Circuit Attorney and her team will research the best step forward for this case in light of the court’s ruling. The Circuit Attorney will be make a decision to either pursue a special prosecutor or make an appointment of one of her assistants to proceed.
Republican leaders in the Missouri House released the following statement:The legislature is a separate and a co-equal branch of government with a separate responsibility entrusted to it by our Constitution. We owe it to Missourians to have a fair and thorough investigation of the facts. To date the committee’s work has not only provided two reports on the facts to the General Assembly but, more importantly, it has also exposed additional concerns relating to the governor’s conduct. This is why we remain committed to that process and await any recommendations it has for the House. Without the pending trial this week, it allows the Governor to take advantage of our open offer to share his side of the facts.
This is a developing story. More will be posted soon.