A St. Louis judge on Monday appointed the prosecutor in Jackson County as the special prosecutor who will decide whether to refile an invasion-of-privacy case against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison recused the St. Louis circuit attorney's office from the felony case and appointed Jean Peters Baker, the prosecutor for Jackson County, where Kansas City is located. The ruling gives Baker discretion to consider not only the invasion-of-privacy charge but "other incidents involving the same victim" that occurred from March 21, 2015, to Sept. 1, 2015.
Greitens was indicted by a grand jury in February. He is accused of taking a compromising and unauthorized photo of a woman during an extramarital affair in 2015, before he was elected.
The charge was dismissed May 14 during jury selection after the court said it would allow Greitens' lawyers to question Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner under oath. Gardner said it would have been improper for her to be a witness in a trial her office was prosecuting.
Gardner, in a statement, praised Baker as "an experienced prosecutor who is widely credited with being unafraid of tackling difficult cases." She said that if Baker agrees to file charges, the case would remain in St. Louis, not Kansas City.
Baker said that she has assembled a team of prosecutors and staff to begin reviewing the case. She said the review "will be based solely on the evidence."
"Politics, affiliations or other matters beyond the evidence will not play a role," she said in a statement.
Burlison's order said Gardner and her office "are prohibited from any further involvement in this matter except to serve as witnesses in the case."
Gardner's office drew criticism from Greitens' attorneys during several court hearings and filings over the actions of William Tisaby, a private investigator hired for the case. Defense attorneys accused Tisaby of lying to the court and hiding evidence. They accused Gardner, a Democrat, of allowing Tisaby's actions. Tisaby has not returned several messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Greitens also faces a second charge in St. Louis accusing him of misusing a charity donor list for his gubernatorial campaign. A trial date in that case has not been set.
After a hearing on Monday, defense attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the defense was seeking to bar Gardner's office from any more involvement in either case.
"We are delighted that the judge ordered Kim Gardner and her office to not be involved in this case at all," Dowd said in a statement. "She has too many conflicts to continue."
Meanwhile, a Missouri House investigatory committee expanded its membership for a special session to determine whether Greitens should be impeached.
House Speaker Todd Richardson added three members to what had been a seven-person panel consisting mostly of attorneys and former law enforcement officers.
The new members are: Rep. J. Eggleston, a Republican business owner from Maysville; Rep. Curtis Trent, a Republican attorney from Springfield; and Democratic Rep. Greg Razer of Kansas City, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill who has said Greitens should resign.
The committee is to meet Tuesday to discuss rules and procedures.
Records provided to The Associated Press show it has spent more than $14,000 since starting work in March.