After testimony damaging to the prosecution’s case against Gov. Eric Greitens was released this week, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison has issued a temporary gag order to prevent more information from being released.
The move raises questions about impartiality. Burlison was a longtime aide to former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who appointed him to the bench. Nixon also appointed Burlison’s daughter to be a judge in St. Charles County, and Burlison’s wife to the judicial panel that recommends judges for the city of St. Louis.
A source with knowledge of Tuesday afternoon’s hearing said Governor Greitens’ defense team objected to the gag order, but, seeing it would go through, then asked the judge to extend it to the state House committee investigating the charges.
Judge Burlison rejected the request and applied it only to the prosecution and defense teams.
The chairman of the House committee investigating Greitens, Republican Jay Barnes of Jefferson City, issued a statement saying the panel will issue a report today.
The case took an especially high-profile stage in the media this week after Greitens’ defense team used the legal tactic of filing a motion to release portions of testimony sealed by the judge to the public.
The prosecution and the attorney for a woman central to the charges harshly criticized the defense after it released statements from the woman that called her memory of events into question. The woman, the prosecution’s key witness, said in testimony she may have dreamed up the phone on which photos were allegedly taken. She also admitted to having taken photos of herself then sending them through social media. Oddly, those are the exact charges against Greitens and observers wonder when actual evidence that Greitens took and sent photos will be produced by the prosecution.
Greitens is accused of felony invasion of privacy for allegedly photographing the woman in a state of undress, threatening to distribute the photo if she told others about their relationship and transmitting the image. To this date, no evidence has been produced to prove those allegations.
His court trial is scheduled to begin on May 14th at St. Louis Circuit Court in downtown St. Louis. The House committee probing the case will continue working until May 18th.
The temporary gag order issued by Judge Burlison will not block the flow of procedural information such court dates and times.