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Source of Watkins money in Greitens case remains unknown

Attorney Al Watkins, pictured here walking out of court on May 1, 2018 with his then-attorney Chuck Hatfield, has admitted he violated a gag order in the Eric Greitens case.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Attorney Al Watkins walks out Tuesday of the Carnahan Courthouse in St. Louis. He's joined by Chuck Hatfield, a Jefferson City attorney who represented him during his two-day deposition.

Gov. Eric Greitens’ attorneys finished questioning the attorney for a witness in the governor’s felony invasion of privacy case on Tuesday, but attorneys for both sides didn’t reveal who supplied $100,000 in cash for Al Watkins’ representation.

Watkins himself confirmed last weekthat he received two $50,000 cash payments to deal with the fallout that Greitens had an extramarital affair. He represents the ex-husband of the woman Greitens had an affair with. And that man ended up exposing that relationship on KMOV-TV.

Greitens attorney Jim Martin revealed Monday that Missouri Times Publisher Scott Faughn delivered the first $50,000 cash payment. A courier named “Skyler” brought the other $50,000. Watkins’ attorneys had sought to halt questioning about the source of the $100,000, but the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Greitens’ attorneys to ask Watkins about the subject.

After a nearly three-hour deposition, Watkins and his attorneys declined to tell reporters the source of the $100,000. When Greitens attorney Ed Dowd was asked a similar question, he said: “We can’t answer, sorry. I wish I could.”

Watkins’ attorneys have, among other things, argued that how Watkins was paid matters little in Greitens’ criminal case. That trial, set to begin on May 14, will determine if Greitens took a semi-nude photo of a woman of the woman without her consent — and put it in a position to be electronically transmitted.

But Watkins’ funding sources could showcase why the affair was revealed in the first place. Greitens’ attorneys noted that Faughn has close relationships with people associated with the low-income housing tax credit. Greitens greatly upset that interest group when he froze that state incentive, potentially costing developers, syndicators and banks hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years.

If low-income housing tax credit interests paid Watkins to represent the ex-husband, it could suggest that the revelation of the affair was retaliation for that policy decision.

Faughn did not directly address where the money came from or why he was helping pay Watkins in a video published yesterday. He was supposed to appear on KMOX’s Mark Reardon Show on Tuesday afternoon, but he canceled. Reardon said that Faughn told him the $50,000 was his own money, but added that he didn’t believe the Poplar Bluff native’s account.

The source of Watkins’ funding could matter if Lt. Gov. Mike Parson becomes governor. The Republican statewide official objected to Greitens’ freeze of the low-income housing tax credit program. And it’s widely assumed he would reverse that decision if Greitens stepped down or was forced out. So if that industry was involved in paying Watkins, it may be more difficult from an optics perspective to restart the program.

Kelli Jones, a spokeswoman for Parson, said in an email that “Lt. Governor Parson had no knowledge of any transactions” to Watkins.

“He is confident that over time all will be resolved,” Jones said. “Lt. Governor Parson is working hard to do the best job he can as Lt. Governor and to make Missouri the best that it can be.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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