ST. LOUIS • The lawyers who successfully defended former Gov. Eric Greitens against criminal charges earlier this year had an unlimited budget and colleagues working nearly around the clock for months, said some of the attorneys involved in that defense.
Greitens was indicted by a grand jury in St. Louis Circuit Court on Feb. 22 on a felony invasion of privacy charge. Prosecutors said he took a photo of a nude or semi-nude woman with whom he’d been having an affair. They said the photo was taken without her permission and Greitens transmitted the image.
A small team, generally Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, her former chief trial assistant, Robert Dierker and First Assistant Robert Steele, handled the prosecution. They spent an estimated $115,000 so far on the case, but Gardner, in a statement, said the office expected to be reimbursed $20,000 from defense lawyers.
The costs of Greitens case
Defense attorneys Scott Rosenblum and Jack Garvey, a former St. Louis judge, agreed to speak with a reporter as the Post-Dispatch was working on a story about the legal expenses in the prosecution and defense of Greitens. They declined to say how much the defense cost, but $588,000 had been spent as of July on legal fees just to defend the campaign against multiple investigations, according to campaign finance reports released then. Some of the money came from campaign funds.
Rosenblum and Garvey were among 15 lawyers and support staff who worked for Greitens. The other principal lawyers declined to comment.
Gardner, through her spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, declined repeated interview requests. In a statement issued Friday, Gardner said there were matters she could not legally discuss because the Greitens criminal case is now a closed record and because of an open investigation into perjury allegations against her former lead investigator on the case, William Don Tisaby.
Gardner did direct reporters to a House report on the allegations and a June news conference in which Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who was appointed to decide whether the invasion of privacy charge should be refiled, said she found the victim credible but said there was no corroborating evidence. Baker also said the woman did not want to subject herself to further attacks from Greitens’ legal team.
Baker said 31,000 files had gone missing from one of Greitens’ telephones before defense lawyers handed it over to her in May. Jim Martin, one of the defense lawyers, has denied that.
From: Susan C. Ryan
Gardner also called the defense team’s “scorched-earth strategy ... an embarrassment to the legal profession” and “demeaning to all victims of sexual violence.”
She said they misrepresented the law in legal motions and misled the public via legal filings they used as press releases. She said she’d been threatened by the defense team and that matter was being investigated by police.
The team forms
Both Garvey and Rosenblum joined the team in late February.
Rosenblum said Ed Dowd, a former U.S. attorney, was “quarterback.” Rosenblum said he and James Bennett were going to split trial duties, and Martin, a former federal prosecutor, was the writer. All shared duties in the many pretrial motion hearings.
Dowd, Martin and Bennett are all with the Dowd Bennett law firm in Clayton.
Garvey said he was brought on for his knowledge of the court system, including the grand jury process. He was a Gardner supporter during her 2016 Democratic primary election and tried to lobby her against bringing the Greitens case to the grand jury.
Garvey said he called Gardner and got a call back from Dierker. The case was serious, Garvey remembers saying, and “involved lives, families.”
“I was trying to stress that issuing this case was going to hurt a lot of people,” he said. “And you want to know what the response was? She got a true bill two hours later.”
Martin later met with Baker after Gardner dropped the St. Louis case, Garvey said.
Rosenblum said Martin was trying to show Baker “there’s not going to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” to “let the other side consider there’s some other ways to view the case” and to “let them know there’s going to be a fight to the finish.”
Rosenblum said the defense efforts in the invasion of privacy case were nearly round-the-clock. “It would not be uncommon for our email thread to start at 3:30 or 4 in the morning and not stop until midnight,” he said.
Rosenblum said that he was aware of a separate public relations campaign on behalf of Greitens involving social and traditional media, but said the defense lawyers did not take direction from that team.
“I sort of isolated myself from that piece,” Rosenblum said of politics.
‘Flawed from The Beginning’
Both defense lawyers said the case should never have been charged and complained about the tactics of prosecutors and their lead investigator.
The defense team was frequently in court in the weeks leading up to the May 14 trial date. Rosenblum estimated that 80 percent of the hearings were devoted to trying to get information favorable to Greitens that defense lawyers accused prosecutors of improperly “hiding.”
“We almost had to drag the information out of the other side,” Rosenblum said.
Defense lawyers were told that a recording of one interview that Tisaby conducted with the woman at the center of the case did not work, and that Tisaby never took notes. But both later turned up.
Tisaby, who had been demoted at the FBI after being accused of bigamy and lying to internal investigators, was accused of repeatedly lying in depositions in the Greitens case. He asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid questions in a subsequent deposition. That left only Gardner to answer questions about how the alleged victim had been questioned.
Tisaby, through his attorney, Jermaine Wooten, has denied any perjury allegations.
Rather than answer questions under oath, Gardner’s office dismissed the case against Greitens while jury selection was ongoing.
“I’ve never seen anything like Tisaby. Never in all my years,” Rosenblum said.
Both Garvey and Rosenblum were conflicted about the outcome of the case. They claim a trial would have vindicated Greitens but at the heavy cost of publicizing details of his affair even further.
Greitens resigned effective June 1 in exchange for Gardner’s agreement to drop a felony charge accusing him of using during his gubernatorial campaign a donor list from a charity he had co-founded.