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Jury will hear felony trial of Gov. Greitens

Ed Dowd, defense attorney for Gov. Eric Greitens, speaks to reporters outside the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. March 26, 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Ed Dowd, defense attorney for Gov. Eric Greitens, speaks to reporters outside the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis after a hearing Monday.

Updated March 26 at 4:30 p.m. with ruling on effort to throw out case based on grand jury instructions — A group of 12 St. Louis residents will decide if Gov. Eric Greitens invaded the privacy of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison on Monday denied a request by the governor's defense team to hear the case from the bench, rather than a jury.

<--break->“I understand the issues in this case are complex,” Burlison said. “But we can deal with them in motions and at the end of the state presenting its case. I will not grant the waiver of a trial by jury.”

Defense attorneys had argued that extensive pre-trial publicity, and complicated issues about the law and evidence, meant that a bench trial would be more fair to their client. 

Jury selection will start May 10, with the trial scheduled to start May 14.

“This case is not happening in a vacuum,” said Jack Garvey, one of Greitens’ attorneys. “Jurors are already being exposed to pre-trial publicity, including false statements. They will say it doesn’t impact them, but it does.”

“Judge Garvey was a zealous advocate for a trial by jury, except here,” replied Robert Dierker, the chief trial assistant for the circuit attorney’s office and, like Garvey, a former circuit judge. “We believe that this case warrants the participation of the public.”

Greitens is accused of taking a semi-nude photo of his then-mistress without her consent, and then transmitting that photo in a way that it could be accessed by a computer. He has pleaded not guilty.

Other legal matters

Burlison on Monday also rejected two other defense motions that could have drastically shaped the future of the case.

He blocked an attempt by defense attorneys to throw out the charge because First Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Steele allegedly misled the grand jurors as to what state law requires for felony invasion of privacy. 

Also on Monday, Burlison ruled that Ronald Sullivan, a law professor at Harvard, can continue to work as a special assistant circuit attorney.  Defense attorneys tried to kick him off the prosecution team because Sullivan is still representing clients as a defense attorney elsewhere in violation of state law. The circuit attorney’s office argued the cases are in Connecticut and elsewhere on the East Coast, and therefore presented no conflict of interest. 

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Have questions about the Greitens indictment? Ask them here.

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