The special House committee investigating Governor Eric Greitens was interviewing a forensic expert Friday when its chairman became enraged.
Republican Representative Jay Barnes was outraged after a document was introduced by a new committee member that came from the Greitens defense team.
Thursday, Barnes and defense team attorney Ed Dowd got into a shouting match during a hearing over the defense’s contention that no documentation could be provided. The defense has said it’s under a protective order numerous times from a judge in St. Louis.
Republican Representative Curtis Trent, who joined the committee Monday, introduced the document, which pertains to the cell phone data of two key individuals involved in the investigation.
He asked that the documents be entered as evidence in the probe. When Barnes was informed that the documents were submitted by the defense for Trent to introduce, he angrily addressed defense team attorney Michelle Nasser who was attending the hearing as an observer. He claimed the defense has been continually dishonest with the committee.
“Mr. Dowd had the audacity to stand there and yell at me and say that he couldn’t provide them to any third party yesterday,” said Barnes. “And today, we have a series of documents that he said he couldn’t do it because of the court order. Mr. Dowd lied Monday to this committee, he lied Tuesday to this committee, he lied Wednesday to this committee. I am tired of your team playing games with us.”
Barnes asked Nasser to officially testify before the committee, which she refused to do, continuously telling Barnes that she would meet with him if the committee would take a break. Barnes refused., claiming the committee had submitted 35 requests for documents over three months and had almost uniformly been rejected by the defense.
Democratic committee member Gina Mitten called the five-page document Trent tried to introduce “cherry picked” by the defense team, a term that was picked up on by several other committee members, including Barnes.
Mitten reminded her colleagues on the panel that they’d come to an agreement after the defense had repeatedly refused its requests to provide all documents.
“We have already made a determination as a committee that we will not except cherry-picked evidence, period,” said Mitten. “And for that reason, I strenuously object to the distribution or the admission of these documents at this time.”
The panel ultimately decided to meet in private for 25 minutes. During that time, Nasser left the capitol but later returned to read a statement from lead defense attorney Ed Dowd after committee returned. In it, Dowd said the defense assumed the committee already had the document Representative Trent attempted to submit into evidence.
Barnes apologized to Ms. Nasser for yelling at her but made it a point to say he was not apologizing to Dowd.
Nasser accepted Barnes apology, but upon leaving the hearing room, she told reporters she had been severely mistreated by him.
“I was a federal prosecutor in Chicago for 13 years,” said Nasser. “I’ve been an attorney for 18 and I have never been spoken like that in my life, especially upon a first time meeting. I got totally bullied.”
She also threw a jab at the committee which, led by Barnes, has voted on rules for its hearings during the special session that don’t allow the defense team to cross-examine witnesses.
“He said that he wants this to be truthful process where both sides are being heard, yet we cannot call her own witnesses, we can’t object, we can’t question anybody. This is not a truth-finding process.”
The full House, which is assembling next week, will have to approve the rules adopted by the committee.
The documents in question are evidence from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office which had filed a court case after a grand jury indicted Greitens on felony Invasion of Privacy charges.
The case centered on allegations Greitens had taken and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of an undressed woman and threatened to distribute the photo if she mentions their encounter.
That charge was dropped but could be refiled in Kansas City where a court date has been set for July 2nd.
The committee returned briefly after taking its break before adjourning for the week. Barnes announced that the panel had subpoenaed Governor Greitens to appear before it on June 4th, and had subpoenaed the woman he had the encounter with the following day. The two were involved in an extramarital relationship over several months that included several episodes in which the woman claims she was sexually coerced and physically abused.
The committee hearing Friday was intended to focus on testimony from a forensics expert who examined Greitens’ cell phone and email before a felony Invasion of Privacy charge against him was dropped.
Forensics expert Brian Koberna works for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. He examined three cell phones belonging to Governor Greitens, the woman he was involved with, and the woman’s ex-husband.
Friday he testified there were three photographs attributed to Greitens phone on the day in 2015 of his alleged encounter with the woman.
Koberna said the photos were cached, meaning it’s not known if they were taken that day on that phone, or simply transferred to the phone from another source. He called them benign, indicating none were images of the woman.
Koberna also added that just because he didn’t find the photo of the woman in question doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. He is scheduled to finish his testimony before the committee next week.