UPDATED: Jackson County prosecutor agrees to serve as special prosecutor in Greitens’ invasion of privacy case, Gardner blocked from case

PHOTO: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens talks to reporters outside the Civil Courts Building after charges of invasion of privacy against the Governor were dropped in St. Louis on May 14, 2018. Prosecutors said that Greitens had taken an explicit photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair, without her consent. Greitens proclaimed his innocence of taking a photo but did admit to having the affair. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker will serve as the special prosecutor in the felony invasion of privacy case against Gov. Eric Greitens following a request from the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office.

The news came hours after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner was officially blocked from handling the case, according to an order issued Monday by a St. Louis Circuit judge.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Peters Baker said:

“No elected official relishes involvement in such difficult matters as an investigation of criminal wrongdoing by another official, but we also understand our duty.  I directed my staff that we will go about our review of this case as we review any case. It will be thorough and our decisions, as I have stated before, will be made without fear or favor. We will need to work as quickly as possible. We do not know what the result of the review will be. But let me stress that this review will be based solely on the evidence. Politics, affiliations or other matters beyond the evidence will not play a role.

My office has prosecuted many similar cases and has experienced prosecutors, victim advocates and others who can assist. I will be involved in directing the review. My office will not comment about this case or the review until it has been completed. I ask that everyone respect the privacy of witnesses and victims in this case. I will not agree to interviews or answer other questions at this time.”

Defense attorneys representing Greitens filed motions over the weekend to block grand jury action by Gardner, but Judge Rex Burlison denied them of that motion, since Gardner agreed to have a special prosecutor review the case.

“Gov. Greitens motion for temporary stay of certain grand jury proceedings is denied as moot and without prejudice based on representation by the circuit attorney’s office (CAO) that the evidence will be reviewed by a party independent of the CAO,” Burlison’s order said.

Baker is now tasked with looking over the evidence and deciding whether or not to refile charges based on testimony from a woman, known only as K.S., who said the governor took an explicit photo of her without her consent and threatened to disseminate it during their affair in 2015.

Greitens has admitted to the affair with the woman but has continuously denied any wrongdoing beyond that.

Burlison’s order also stated that “once a special prosecutor is selected, the circuit attorney and the CAO are prohibited from an further involvement in this matter except to serve as witnesses in the case.”

The felony invasion of privacy case against Greitens was suddenly dismissed on May 14 after the circuit attorney’s office stated they will seek a special prosecutor to handle the case.

The decision came after Greitens’ defense team stated they would be seeking to call Gardner as a witness to question her over allegations of influencing witness testimony and overall misconduct.

Over the last few months of pretrial hearings, the defense team has stated that Gardner allowed former special prosecutor William Don Tisaby to commit perjury.

The defense team alleged that Tisaby made false statements under oath, such as when he claimed he never took notes but was seen taking them. They have also said Gardner should have corrected Tisaby about his conduct but never did.

In a written statement by the circuit attorney’s office, they stated that calling Gardner as a witness puts her in an “impossible position.”

“22nd Circuit Judge Rex Burlison made an unpreceded decision by granting a request by Governor Greitens’ defense team to endorse the Circuit Attorney as a witness for the defense,” the statement said. “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.”

Greitens later issued a statement from front of the Civil Courts building steps following the decision to dismiss.

“Today, the prosecutor dropped the false charges against me. This was a great victory and a long time coming,” Greitens said. “I’ve said from the beginning that I am innocent. I am extraordinarily grateful for the tremendous patience and courage of friends, family, and people of faith, who have all recognized that in time comes the truth. We have a great mission before us. And at this time, I’d ask people of goodwill to come together so that we may continue to do good together.”

Gardner tweeted Monday evening, saying “I believe the accusations made by Mr. Greitens, his defense team and their political operatives are unfounded, without any merit and politically motived.”

Greitens faces another criminal charge regarding a count of tampering with computer data: modifying or destroying, disclosing or accessing for an incident that took place on around about April 22, 2015, in relation to The Mission Continues — the charity he started. The trial date for his second felony charge has not been set, but pretrial hearings are set to begin this week.

The Missouri Legislature has also begun a monthlong special session to consider impeaching Greitens.

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