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Investigator of former Gov. Greitens pleads guilty to misconduct in 2018 case

William Tisaby wears a dark suit with a blue tie and a grey mask covering his mask and nose. He is flanked by three suited attorneys as he walks down a staircase outside a tall court building in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
William Tisaby, second from left, walks from the Civil Courts Building in St. Louis with his legal counsel on Wednesday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with his behavior during a 2018 criminal investigation of then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Tisaby, a former FBI agent, was hired as an investigator by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner for the case.

Updated at 5:35 p.m. March 23 with comments from one of Eric Greitens' attorneys

A former FBI agent hired by the St. Louis circuit attorney to investigate criminal allegations against then-Gov. Eric Greitens has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor evidence tampering in connection with his conduct during the case.

William Tisaby, 69, admitted Wednesday that he failed to turn over certain documents to the governor’s defense attorneys, including notes he took during an interview with the woman at the center of the case. He had faced seven felony counts, including allegations that he lied during a March 2018 deposition about the investigation.

“There was no malice in this man’s heart,” Tisaby’s attorney, Jermaine Wooten, said in an interview after the plea hearing. “It was more an issue of negligence in this matter. He just went into that deposition really not prepared.”

Jury selection was to begin Thursday, with a pool of 48 residents to face questioning from Wooten and Robert Russell, a special prosecutor handling the case. Wooten said up until the last minute, his client was set to go to trial.

“We met late Monday with Mr. Tisaby, along with his wife, and they just felt because of his health decline, along with her health situation, they thought it was just in their best interest to enter a plea of guilty,” Wooten said.

Wooten added he believed that had his client gone to trial, prosecutors would have had difficulty proving that any of the things they say Tisaby lied about affected the underlying case against Greitens.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner hired Tisaby in January 2018, after news reports that Greitens had tied up a woman with whom he was having an affair and taken a semi-nude photo of her without her consent. Gardner claimed she needed outside help because the St. Louis police department had refused to investigate, an allegation the department has denied.

Tisaby’s conduct during his investigation, especially that deposition, was a source of numerous defense motions, including one to throw out the case entirely. The judge refused to go that far, but did allow Greitens’ attorneys to re-interview Tisaby and other key witnesses.

In a hearing on the matter back in 2018, Robert Dierker, then Gardner’s chief trial assistant, admitted that prosecutors had been “saddled with an egregious mistake of relying” on Tisaby.

Gardner is facing a legal ethics complaint for her behavior during the Greitens case, including questions about whether she allowed Tisaby to lie. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Scott Rosenblum, an attorney for Greitens, said he wished the case had gone to trial so those involved were forced to testify.

Tisaby did not speak after the hearing. In court, he answered Judge Bryan Hettenbach’s questions about whether he understood the plea confidently, usually replying, “Yes sir, your honor.”

His voice broke, however, when he told Hettenbach that he had just been trying to help the circuit attorney “bring justice” to the woman.

Tisaby will spend a year on probation but is not required to report to an officer. And Hettenbach made it clear that he would likely release Tisaby from probation early.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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