The publisher of a political newspaper delivered $50,000 in cash to the attorney of a key witness in Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ felony invasion of privacy case.
While the source of that money wasn’t disclosed in court on Monday, Greitens’ attorney noted Scott Faughn’s connections to an interest group that the governor greatly upset.
Greitens is accused of taking a semi-nude photo of a woman with whom he had an affair without her consent — and placing the photo in a position to be transmitted to a computer. The woman’s ex-husband ended up exposing the affair in January in an interview with KMOV-TV. And that man’s attorney, Al Watkins, confirmed last week that he received $100,000 in cash to deal with the fallout from that revelation.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ordered Watkins to sit for a deposition about the cash payment. Greitens' attorney Jim Martin revealed that Faughn delivered the first $50,000 payment. A courier named “Skyler” delivered the rest of the money.
"The reason Scott Faughn was important to name is because of his position in Missouri. In this Missouri Times," Martin said. "This publication that has been trashing Mr. Greitens, the governor, for months."
Faughn did not address the delivery to Watkins in a statement Monday on Periscope. He said his connection to Watkins is that he retained his services for a book he's writing about Greitens.
Faughn is the publisher of the Jefferson City-based Missouri Times, which, as Martin noted, has published a number of articles critical of the governor. Martin alluded to in court Faughn's closeness to people who are “very hurt” and “very upset” about having their tax credits taken away. That was almost certainly a reference to people involved with the low-income housing tax credit.
One of the sponsors of Faughn’s television show "This Week in Missouri Politics" is Sterling Bank, which has made loans using low-income housing tax credits.
Greitens ended that state incentive in 2017, which could end up costing the developers, banks and syndicators hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years. Lt. Gov. Mike Parson is a strong supporter of that program. And it’s widely assumed that Parson would reverse Greitens’ tax credit embargo if he were to become governor.
"And so if Mr. Watkins has some indication that that group is behind this push to give money to [the ex-husband] and others, then that is highly relevant and it's not privileged," Martin said.
Watkins has said he doesn’t know the source of the $100,000. His attorney, Chuck Hatfield, contended the source of the money that Faughn delivered was privileged.
"And the problem I have is if that probing means that he would have to talk about what Mr. Faughn told him in the course of seeking this advice on how he could make a third-party donation, donation, whatever word you want to use, how he could pay these fees, then we're into the privilege and that's the problem," Hatfield said. "And that's where I'm instructing him not to answer."
But Burlison ruled that Greitens’ attorneys could continue to question Watkins about who gave Faughn the money.
After the hearing Watkins and Hatfield declined comment.
Other Monday developments
Earlier on Monday, Greitens' attorneys tried to eliminate testimony from two key witnesses in his invasion of privacy case, which include his accuser.
Greitens’ attorneys today asked Burlison to strike testimony from people who William Tisaby interviewed. Burlison said he’ll make a decision on that motion on May 7.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner hired Tisaby as an investigator, and it was in that role that he interviewed the woman, K.S., and one of her friends.
Tisaby allegedly made false statements during a deposition, which prompted Burlison to order redo depositions. Tisaby, though, ended up invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination last week.
Among the other developments at Monday morning's hearing:
- After the Missouri Supreme Court denied an attempt to block a search of the woman’s cell phone, Burlison detailed the process for extracting data. A technician will take information from the phone, which will then be handed over to former U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan. Callahan will then send a report to Burlison about what information from the phone is germane to the case.
- Burlison also ruled that deposition of the woman can continue. Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Dierker had sought to halt it, contending that the governor’s attorneys were asking harassing questions. Greitens attorney Scott Rosenblum contended that the questions were relevant to the case.
- Burlison may decide this week on whether to allow cameras in the courtroom during the Greitens trial. That trial slated to begin on May 14.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum