An investigator who interviewed several witnesses in Gov. Eric Greitens' invasion of privacy case will have to show up to be re-deposed on Thursday.
A judge also ruled that an attorney who represents a key figure in the case can't also be that investigator's attorney.
Greitens is facing trial for allegedly taking a revealing photo of a woman he had an affair with without her consent — and placing it in a position to be electronically transmitted. Greitens’ attorneys wanted the case thrown out after investigator William Tisaby apparently made false statements during a deposition, including that he didn’t take notes during an interview of the woman.
When deciding the case should continue last week, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ordered that several key witnesses, including Tisaby, be re-deposed. But Greitens attorney Jim Martin told Burlison on Monday morning that Tisaby’s attorney, Al Watkins, told him that Tisaby wouldn’t be available until next Monday due to a matter of “national security.”
Martin asked Burlison to have Tisaby be redeposed on Tuesday — or rule that the case should be thrown out. Burlison ultimately ruled that Tisaby has to be re-deposed on Thursday.
In addition to the timing of Tisaby’s new deposition, Martin also took issue with the fact that Watkins is representing him — especially because Watkins is representing the ex-husband.
“That creates all sorts of problems,” Martin said. “Al Watkins has to know he has a conflict.”
Watkins announced that he was representing Tisaby in a Monday news release “in all matters relating to his work as a contractor with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office.” On Monday afternoon, Burlison disqualified Watkins from representing Tisaby.
Watkins confirms $100,000 anonymous payment
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising moment of Monday, at least from a political perspective, occurred after the hearing was over.
That’s when Watkins confirmed to reporters that his law firm had received two $50,000 payments from an anonymous source. He said it was to deal with fallout from his client’s revelation of Greitens’ affair. Martin had said during the Monday afternoon hearing that a “political operative” gave Watkins the money.
Watkins emphasized that he didn’t know the source of the $100,000 payment to his firm. In addition to the ex-husband, Watkins has represented at least two other clients, Eli Karabell and Paul Henreid, who have injected themselves into the Greitens saga. He said there are other people he’s representing related to the Greitens case that he can’t disclose.
“It’s clear there was no desire on the part of whomever the donor was or whoever the gifter was to have identity known,” Watkins said. “I have no idea.”
“I find it to be a wonderful chapter in yet another drug store novel in my life as legal counsel,” he added. “I’m expensive. I’m not cheap. I’m not free.”
The Kansas City Star reported on Tuesday that Watkins was subpoenaed to appear before a House committee looking into Greitens conduct.
Watkins, though, stressed that the payments had nothing to do with the ex-husband speaking out to KMOV and other media outlets.
“The decision to release those tapes was made well before any of that occurred,” Watkins said. “More importantly, the release of the recordings occurred before any contact was made.”
When asked if Missourians had a right to know if someone who would benefit from Greitens’ departure was paying his firm, he eventually said: “I have obligations that, from day-to-day, require me to be very careful about what I disclose.”
“What I can tell you is we’ve received, in fact actively solicited much like the governor, as much money as possible from as many sources as possible,” he said.
Watkins also said that the ex-husband tried desperately to keep the story out of the media’s eye during the 2016 campaign. He said his client “tried in vain to suppress this story at his own expenses and at all costs,” but changed course when press inquiries picked up in December 2017. Watkins said the ex-husband decided to go public after one of his children was called by a reporter.
But the ex-husband sent out a tweet after Greitens won the election calling the governor-elect a “homewrecker.” Asked if that contradicted claims that the ex-husband wanted to keep the story out of view, Watkins said “there is no doubt about the fact that, at that time, my client was upset.”
“And he regrets very much that he did tweet that out,” Watkins said. “It was a moment of emotion for him. I don’t even think he thought about it. It was an emotional response. In hindsight, he thought ‘gosh, I just wouldn’t think that would be linked with what had happened.'”
Lawmakers have said they want to know if a third-party paid Watkins' firm after the ex-husband testified before a House committee looking into Greitens' conduct.
The other issue on Monday was whether the woman should turn over her cell phone to the defense. Burlison ruled that a special master would ultimately decide what information from the woman's phone and the ex-husband's get released to defense attorneys.
Greitens attorney Scott Rosenblum said that the governor’s legal team is trying to get texts between the woman and her ex-husband. He said those texts would conflict with the ex-husband’s prior testimony.
But Scott Simpson, an attorney for the woman, said the order amounts to a “defacto” illegal search and seizure. He also said the order could allow the defense to search through conversations that would violate attorney-client privilege.
Simpson also said the order violates his client’s privacy, which he said is “ironic” because Greitens is facing trial for invasion of privacy.
Monday’s hearing comes after Greitens was charged on Friday afternoon with felony tampering with computer data. That’s connected to how his gubernatorial campaign got a hold of a fundraising list from a veterans charity he helped set up without that organization’s permission.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum