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Strife On the Mississippi? Eric Greitens Gets Off…For Now

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

By now, the news that Eric Greitens, the current governor of Missouri, has survived a felony invasion of privacy charge is fading from national consciousness, and there are many concerned citizens who are undoubtedly happy to forget this sordid story, and go back to business as usual.  The story has been underplayed by the national media, and has been intentionally misinterpreted by local and regional news outlets, with politics rearing its ugly head, as we all might expect.  In the interest of full disclosure, your humble Townhall correspondent has friends in both camps here.  I am personally acquainted with members of the Greitens defense team, and also know individuals in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office.  Moreover, I did not vote for Greitens in the Missouri Republican gubernatorial primary in August, 2016.  I hope this establishes my bonafides, and allows me to proceed without being brushed off as a shill for either side in the case.  


Let us review the case for background knowledge.  Last Monday, May 14th, Kim Gardner, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney, dropped a felony invasion of privacy charge against Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, as jury selection and pre-trial proceedings were underway, with opening statements set to begin on Wednesday morning.  Ms. Gardner beat a rapid retreat from her formerly steadfast position on this trial, when she was informed that she would be required to testify under oath for supposed pretrial misconduct.  She quickly agreed to dismiss charges against the Chief Executive of Missouri, while leaving open the possibility that charges would be refiled later, although the statute of limitations is looming ahead, in less than four weeks.  

When the dismissal of charges was announced, the reaction on both sides was predictable.  Gov. Greitens crowed about beating the rap, which he had characterized as a politically motivated “witch-hunt,” although he admitted that the bad experience has “humbled” him.  Humble is a term that has rarely been applied to Eric Greitens. The major media in the region, almost uniformly anti-Greitens, (particularly the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) has reacted with disappointment, as a great story had disappeared in the blink of an eye.  Finally, Kim Gardner, stung by the legitimate criticism of her stupefyingly poor leadership in the matter, has insisted that, even though she bungled this time, she will refile the charges and let someone competent present the state’s case.   


This case, in truth, was like no other incident in recent memory.  It did not break down on predictable lines, with a male politician behaving badly and taking advantage of a vulnerable female, although there is plenty of blame to lay at Greitens’ door.  Ms. Kim Gardner began this case after the story broke on KMOV-TV in St. Louis in late January. The victimized woman in question, still unnamed, never filed a criminal complaint against Eric Greitens, and demurred when asked to do so by members of Gardner’s staff, and by fairly important members of the Missouri Democratic Party.  In order to secure testimony in this matter, Ms. Gardner announced a Grand Jury proceeding, and issued a subpoena to the woman in question, in order to compel her testimony.  After three weeks, the Circuit Attorney announced criminal charges against Greitens for allegedly snapping a picture of the partially undressed woman, and threatening her with blackmail, if she spoke of the matter.  The fact that the Circuit Attorney had no picture, and could not produce one undercut the case from the start, but Kim Gardner was not to be denied.

She held all of her meetings in secret.  She refused to ask the St. Louis Metropolitan Police to assist in the case, and, in fact, declined to share information with them.  Likewise, she refused information requests from her judicial superiors in the state court system, and the Missouri Attorney General’s office.  She violated state law by hiring a Harvard Law Professor to assist the prosecution at an exorbitant salary, and she hired a completely incompetent ex-FBI agent, to lead in the questioning of witnesses.  This man, William Don Tisaby, was so bad that his own side referred to him as “Inspector Clouseau,” the bumbling detective in the classic movie comedies.  The longer the case proceeded, the more Gardner embarrassed herself, and showed that she was in over her head.  She was warned by the trail judge that she was flirting with a contempt citation, when she refused, three times, to answer who was leading the prosecution’s case.  Finally, the trial judge, Rex Burlison, advised Ms. Gardner to hire a lawyer for herself.  The case may have been dismissed, but the reverberations are just beginning.  


Greitens, for his own part, probably had unbelievable good luck working for him in the matter.  The case would have been tough for the prosecution to win in any event, but Gardner’s dreadful performance clinched the deal.  Greitens is not out of the woods yet, however, as the state and federal investigators are taking a long look at his campaign finance reports.  Meanwhile, the Missouri Republicans, eager to be rid of a man they never liked, and worried that he will drag the Party down in November, are readying impeachment charges.  Finally, Greitens future, and his family life are in ruins, and he has nobody but himself to blame.  

Now, what have we learned from this, and what can we take away from this admittedly terrible mess?  When we pick through the wreckage we find no heroes, but many scoundrels, including the Missouri governor.  Still, we might ask for answers to a few questions.  A St. Louis-area Democratic member of the Missouri State House of Representatives, has admitted that she contacted the woman in question, urged her to file a complaint, and told her that first class legal representation would be provided at no cost.  This Missouri House member also passed the information on to Kim Gardner, urging her to act.  In addition, Albert Watkins, a well-known Democratic St. Louis attorney, peripherally connected to the case, has received cash payments in excess of $120,000, from anti-Greitens operatives, who wanted to bring him down. Have the Missouri Democrats cooked this up?  This thing isn’t over yet, and there will be wigs on the green before it’s finished!


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