By SUMMER BALLENTINE, DAVID A. LIEB and JIM SALTER, Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Attorneys for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens are questioning why St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner hired a private out-of-state company to perform the investigation that led to his indictment, rather than relying on St. Louis police.
Greitens’ attorneys in a court filing Tuesday cited documents showing that Enterra LLC of Rochester Hills, Michigan, conducted the investigation connected to the Republican governor’s affair with a woman in 2015, before he was elected.
A grand jury on Thursday indicted Greitens on one count of invasion of privacy for taking a partially nude photo of the woman without her consent and transmitting it to a computer.
Greitens is seeking a speedy trial and is eager to clear his name, attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. said in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. A judge on Monday set a tentative trial date of May 14. The Greitens team had hoped for an April trial date.
“The damage to this guy that’s being done every day is absurd,” Dowd said of Greitens, who along with his wife planned to unveil a portrait of George Washington Carver at the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday.
“He’s hanging in there,” Dowd said. “He’s a very tough guy. He really wants to have a trial and so do we.”
Dowd said he obtained the circuit attorney’s contract with Enterra through an open-records request. That document, which Dowd filed as a court exhibit, shows Enterra was to be paid a $10,000 retainer, with its employees paid at a rate of $250 an hour plus reimbursement for “reasonable expenses.”
The agreement states that the investigative company would report directly to Gardner “either orally, or if requested, in written form.”
Dowd, a former U.S. attorney who also worked on the Branch Davidian investigation in Waco, Texas, said he’s never seen a situation where a criminal case report was not in writing.
“It’s more indication of how unusual this whole thing is,” Dowd said.
It’s unclear why an outside firm was used for the investigation instead of St. Louis police. A spokeswoman for Gardner had no immediate comment.
Washington University law professor Peter Joy said hiring a private firm to help in an investigation is not uncommon when prosecutors are understaffed and under tight deadlines. That was the case in the Greitens investigation because the three-year statute of limitations for invasion of privacy would have expired in March.
“When you are kind of under the gun, hiring outside help would be something you’d do,” Joy said.
The court filing from Greitens’ attorneys said the private firm is being paid at a rate eight times more per hour than city police earn, and questioned if the use of the outside firm instead of police will impact the admissibility of the evidence.
Gardner filed her own motion of discovery Tuesday noting that a photo of the woman is part of the evidence. It is not clear if the photo cited in the evidence listing is the one allegedly taken by Greitens.
Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing. Dowd, in court filings and in the interview, reiterated his belief that Missouri’s invasion of privacy statute does not apply to encounters involving consenting adults, even if the woman didn’t know she was being photographed. She told her ex-husband in a conversation he secretly recorded that she was partially nude and blindfolded while in the basement of Greitens’ home when he took the picture, threatening to use it as blackmail if she ever spoke of the affair.
“When you take your clothes off, you cannot expect not to be viewed in whatever place you’re in, especially in somebody else’s house,” Dowd said. “The statute is designed for the peeping tom who’s looking in through the window at you while in your bathroom or your bedroom or something.”
The Missouri House also has formed a seven-member committee to investigate the allegations that led to Greitens’ indictment. That committee will determine whether to recommend impeachment proceedings to try to remove Greitens from office.
Meanwhile, a newly publicized email is shedding more light on how Greitens’ campaign came into possession of a donor list from a veterans charity he founded, just as Greitens was preparing to run for office in early 2015.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday that it had obtained a copy of an email showing that The Mission Continues donor list was sent from a Greitens employee to two people who were among Greitens’ first campaign staffers.
The Associated Press reported in March 2016 that Greitens’ campaign had obtained the donor list and had raised about $2 million from people who had previously given significant amounts to The Mission Continues.
Federal law bars 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled charities cannot give donor lists to politicians but can rent them at fair market value if made available to all candidates.
Greitens initially denied to the AP that he had used the donor list for his campaign. But last April, he agreed to pay a $100 penalty to the Missouri Ethics Commission for failing to disclose that his campaign had received the charity’s donor list. Greitens’ campaign amended its reports to show the donor list as an in-kind donation valued at $600 from Danny Laub, a Greitens campaign worker.
The email obtained by the Post-Dispatch shows that Krystal Taylor, whose LinkedIn profile said she was a vice president at the Greitens Group, sent the donor list to Laub and Michael Hafner on Jan. 6, 2015. According to her profile, Taylor had worked at the Mission Continues until May 2014, the same month the list was created.
Greitens officially formed an exploratory campaign committee on Feb. 24, 2015. His amended campaign finance reports showed The Mission Continues donor list as being provided to the campaign on March 1.
Salter reported from St. Louis.