Missouri Governor's Trial On Felony Invasion Of Privacy Begins This Week
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In St. Louis this week, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens goes to trial on charges of felony invasion of privacy. St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum reports.
JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: At the beginning of the year, Governor Eric Greitens hoped Missouri's governorship would help him achieve his not-so-secret national ambitions. But instead of trying for the White House someday, Greitens' focus right now is staying out of prison. That's because of Greitens' trial on charges that he took a semi-nude photo of a woman without her consent and put it in a position to be accessed by a computer. While the married governor admitted to having an affair with the woman, he says he didn't break the law.
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ERIC GREITENS: A court of law and a jury of my peers will let every person in Missouri know the truth and prove my innocence.
ROSENBAUM: Eric Greitens' legal team is bullish on getting an acquittal. That's because prosecutors don't actually have the photo that they say Greitens took. The governor's attorneys announced last week that a search of more than 16,000 images and videos on Greitens' phone turned up nothing. That puts additional pressure on the woman at the center of the case. She hasn't spoken publicly since the scandal broke. In fact, it was her ex-husband who exposed the affair to a local TV station in January on the night of Greitens' State of the State address. Kathryn Banks, a former public defender, says what the woman says in court will be crucial.
KATHRYN BANKS: There are many cases that are proven based on, essentially, circumstantial evidence, right? And so if she testifies in a way that the jury finds believable and to be credible, certainly they can believe that burden was met.
ROSENBAUM: NPR typically does not identify potential victims or accusers without their consent. The woman has already testified under oath to prosecutors and members of the Missouri General Assembly. While Greitens' attorneys are expected to sharply challenge her credibility, she's getting strong support from across the political spectrum.
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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Hey. Hey. Ho. Ho. Governor Greitens has got to go.
ROSENBAUM: As attorneys went through jury selection last week, Pamela Merritt was with a group of demonstrators in front of a St. Louis courthouse. Merritt is dismayed at how Greitens' legal woes are affecting the state.
PAMELA MERRITT: Right now, his resignation is a question of integrity and honor, and if he has an ounce of that left, he would resign. Time's up.
ROSENBAUM: Greitens' political stock has plummeted, especially among fellow Republicans. He faced bipartisan calls for his resignation after the House released a report where the woman accused Greitens of sexual and physical abuse. He has strongly denied those charges. Still, lawmakers took the unprecedented step of calling a special session to consider Greitens' potential impeachment. That's scheduled to begin on Friday night. And Republican state representative Shamed Dogan says an acquittal in court won't stop that process.
SHAMED DOGAN: When people are accused of heinous behavior, it's the legislature's responsibility to look at those allegations and then to decide if it meets the criteria for impeachment set out in the Constitution.
ROSENBAUM: After this trial wraps up, Governor Greitens will face another felony charge associated with using a charity fundraising list to raise money for his 2016 political campaign. That shows that Greitens' legal and political woes extend beyond what 12 jurors will decide in a St. Louis courtroom. For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis.
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