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Judge denies cameras in the courtroom for Greitens’ felony invasion of privacy trial

Mark Sableman, an attorney for KMOV, talks to reporters after a judge barred cameras in the courtroom during Gov. Eric Greitens' trial. (May 3, 2018)
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Mark Sableman, an attorney for KMOV, talks Thursday to reporters after a judge barred cameras in the courtroom during Gov. Eric Greitens' trial.

The judge handling Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ felony invasion of privacy trial has denied a bid to have the proceedings televised.

But St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said Thursday he is considering allowing audio recorders and still photography in his courtroom.

Greitens is accused of photographing a woman without her consent — and placing the photo in a position to be electronically transmitted. Mark Sableman, an attorney representing KMOV, requested that Burlison allow broadcast media to videotape the trial that begins on May 14.

But Burlison rejected Sableman’s request. Among other things, he mentioned that allowing television cameras in the courtroom presented a “security risk” when the defendant was a sitting governor.

Sableman said that the attorney for the woman with whom Greitens had an affair objected to having the proceedings televised. 

After the hearing was over, Sableman said he was disappointed by the ruling. He said that allowing cameras in the courtroom would have provided the public with an unvarnished, spin-free window into a trial with massive political implications.

“And if the media can provide more accurate information, more quotes, more direct video, the viewers are going to get a better picture of things,” said Sableman, who is also St. Louis Public Radio’s attorney.  “And I think they care about that.”

Sableman said it's not uncommon for judges to allow cameras during trials. But he said that request is sometimes denied, noting that judges in Missouri are more conservative than other states.

The Radio Television Digital News Association issued a statement denouncing Burlison’s ruling.

“At the very least, this is a disappointing development for public access to the felony court proceedings targeting Missouri’s highest elected official. At the most, it is an unacceptable and unwarranted denial of citizens’ need to know in detail the evidence against their governor and the elements of his defense,” said RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley in a statement.

Busy week

Attorney Al Watkins represents the ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had an affair.
Credit File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Attorney Al Watkins represents the ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had an affair.

Burlison’s decision on Thursday capped off an active week inside and outside of courtroom.

Greitens’ attorneys revealed on Monday that Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn delivered $50,000 in cash to an attorney for the woman’s ex-husband. The ex-husband ended up exposing the affair in January.

The man’s attorney, Al Watkins, spent part of Tuesday answering questions about where $100,000 in cash came from. Greitens attorneys suspect that the money, which was brought to deal with the fallout from revelations of the affair, may have come from people associated with the low-income housing tax credit industry. Greitens upset those business people when he froze the state's low-income housing tax credit, which may show a motive for exposing the governor's affair, in retaliation for that decision.

And on Wednesday, reporters sifted through motions about whether to exclude certain evidence or witnesses. Greitens’ attorneys want to prevent the woman in question from testifying, primarily because prosecution investigator William Tisaby interviewed her. Tisaby is accused of making false statements during a deposition.

Prosecutors want to prevent the defense from asking the woman about past sexual conduct and counseling under Missouri’s rape shield law. Burlison is set to rule on most of the motions on Monday.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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