Grand jurors: St. Louis prosecutor's actions 'reprehensible'

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Members of a grand jury that indicted an investigator in the criminal case against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens urged a state disciplinary board to take stronger action against St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, calling her conduct “reprehensible.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday reported that grand jury members last month sent a letter detailing their concerns to St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison, and asked him to forward it to the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. The agency is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by lawyers.

The letter was signed by seven members of a grand jury that indicted investigator William Tisaby on multiple counts of perjury and evidence tampering related to the 2018 invasion of privacy case against Greitens. Tisaby pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor and was placed on probation.

The same grand jury declined to indict Gardner, but the letter offered scathing criticism.

“What we observed was not inadvertent nor inconsequential but was calculated deceit and/or outright incompetence; neither of which is acceptable behavior for a person holding this public office,” the letter stated.

A statement from Gardner's office said she “has cooperated fully from the outset. We appreciate that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel conducted a fair and thorough process, and we expect the stipulation agreed to by all parties will soon become final.”

Gardner's attorney, Michael Downey, called the letter “bizarre" and said it was unheard of for members of a grand jury to take such a step.

“If you look at Missouri law, grand jurors take an oath, and one of the oaths is that they're supposed to keep their deliberations confidential and not discuss them,” Downey said.

Last month, Gardner and the disciplinary counsel reached a joint stipulation agreement at the outset of a disciplinary hearing. Gardner conceded that she failed to produce documents and mistakenly maintained that all documents had been provided to Greitens’ lawyers.

The agreement states that Gardner’s conduct “was negligent or perhaps reckless, but not intentional," and recommends only a written reprimand, though the Missouri Supreme Court ultimately decides punishment. It's unclear when the court will do so.

Grand jurors wrote they were “extremely disappointed” with the joint stipulation agreement.

“As a lawyer sworn to uphold the law and as a public servant voted to the city’s highest prosecutorial office, her behavior should be beyond reproach,” the letter said of Gardner. “Yet her disregard for the law, as detailed in both the Special Grand Jury indictment as well as in the ethics charges, is reprehensible.”

The prosecution of Greitens played a pivotal role in his eventual resignation. He is attempting a political comeback and is a leading contender for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat, despite recent allegations of abuse by his ex-wife.

Greitens, a Republican, was a year into his first term when news broke in January 2018 of an affair three years earlier with his St. Louis hairdresser. The woman alleged that Greitens took a compromising photo and threatened to use it as blackmail if she spoke of their relationship.

Gardner hired Tisaby, a former FBI agent, to investigate. The investigation led to Greitens’ indictment on one felony count of invasion of privacy. Greitens claimed he was the victim of a political witch hunt.

The charge was dropped in May 2018, three days into jury selection, when a judge ruled that Gardner would have to provide a statement under oath about her investigation at the request of Greitens’ attorneys, who criticized her handling of the case.

Meanwhile, Gardner filed a second charge accusing Greitens of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing to his political fundraiser a list of top donors to a veterans charity he founded, without the charity’s permission.

Under investigation by lawmakers who said they found the woman's allegations credible, Greitens resigned in June 2018, and Gardner agreed to drop the criminal charges.

The judge appointed Kansas City prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to review the invasion of privacy case. A week after Greitens' resignation, Baker said she believed the woman’s allegation, but that there wasn’t enough evidence for a criminal charge.

The 2019 indictment of Tisaby stemmed from his statement that he had not taken notes during an interview with the woman when a video later showed that he had, and his statement that he hadn’t received notes from the prosecutor’s office before he interviewed the woman when a document later showed that he had.

Greitens’ attorneys raised concerns about Gardner’s failure to correct the record on Tisaby’s statements, and whether she concealed evidence.

Downey said any mistakes were unintentional, the result of a heavy workload during the Greitens investigation.