This is just not normal.
On May 26, Special Prosecutor Jerry Carmody quietly — and stunningly — filed a motion to withdraw from handling the perjury and evidence-tampering case against ex-FBI agent William Tisaby. It received scant local media attention, but it was big news.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had hired Tisaby, a former FBI agent from Michigan, to investigate then-Gov. Eric Greitens in 2018. Greitens was subsequently indicted for invasion of privacy related to his infamous extra-marital affair involving basement bondage with his hairdresser.
In the leadup to the trial, Greitens’ legal dream team of top local attorneys had skillfully exploited flaws in the prosecution’s case. They pounced on inconsistencies and misstatements by Tisaby, and it was over.
Gardner dropped the case on May 15, 2018 — three days into jury selection — after a judge ruled she could be called as a witness to Tisaby’s conduct in the case. “Greitens and his attorneys lauded the move as a ‘great victory’ as they spoke to the media on the courthouse steps,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time.
Two weeks after the great victory, Greitens resigned in disgrace as governor.
This same great victor and his lawyers had crawled to Gardner with an offer to resign if she would drop a second felony indictment for computer tampering. It alleged misuse of his “Mission Continues” charity during the 2016 campaign.
That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. There’s a legal term of art for what ensued: payback.
First, there was the vindictive decision to waste scarce taxpayer dollars to pursue and punish Tisaby as a way to punish Gardner. By the Post-Dispatch’s tally as far back as 2019, Carmody’s firm had been paid nearly $400,000. It’s unclear how much the total tab to the taxpayers has grown by now.
Additionally, Greitens’ lawyers initiated professional misconduct charges against Gardner, and these are now before the Missouri Supreme Court, potentially threatening her law license. This is an extremely rare step and a reprehensible one.
But for pure strangeness, none of it can top what’s happening with Carmody. The man brought in on the white steed is just bolting, with little or no explanation.
That sort of thing doesn’t happen, not mid-case, not in a high-profile prosecution, not after an attorney has received large sums of taxpayer dollars.
“I don’t know of another case in which a special prosecutor who was assigned to prosecute a case, investigated the case and obtained an indictment against the defendant, and then asked to withdraw from the prosecution of that case,” Pace University Professor Bennett Gershman, a leading national expert on prosecutorial ethics issues, told me.
“We all can speculate on his reason. My best guess is that he has no confidence in the merits of the case and does not want to undertake any further actions.”
Frankly, I just interviewed Gershman four weeks ago about the Gardner case and hadn’t planned to contact him so soon. But this is too weird.
Still, one need not be a lawyer to understand a simple principle: There was no public purpose served by prosecuting Tisaby. None. Even if he had done the worst of what has been alleged — and there’s no reason to assume he did — there was no consequence to anyone, not even Greitens.
Remember, the case was dropped.
Was it really worth all this time, energy and tax dollars to go after some guy from Michigan over a dropped case? There is no victim here, certainly not Greitens, who might have been inconvenienced by Gardner’s ill-fated prosecution, but hardly was pressured out of office because of it.
Even if she wanted to, Gardner cannot take credit for getting Greitens to resign. From the moment the estranged (now former) husband of Greitens’ mistress went to KMOV with a sobbing recording of her telling him what the slimeball had done to her, Greitens was toast.
It was the politicians of his own Republican Party in Jefferson City — bitter after being bullied and abused by Greitens — who did him in. They didn’t need any help from Gardner.
As for Tisaby, Carmody’s resignation would suggest the prosecution is not going so well. The only explanation he offered was a weak reference to how long the case had dragged on:
“I have resigned as Special Prosecutor … after nearly three years. It has been nearly two years since a St. Louis Grand Jury indicted Mr. Tisaby on perjury charges and a trial date has not yet been rescheduled. We have other pressing matters currently scheduled in the coming months and they all need substantial attention.”
That’s nice. But didn’t his law firm also have pressing matters in 2018 when he took on the case? A more believable explanation is Gershman’s, which is that the case isn’t going anywhere. Another is that Carmody’s prospects for getting paid going forward got dimmer with the election of Mayor Tishaura Jones, an ally of Gardner. She replaced ex-Mayor Lyda Krewson, who clashed with Gardner.
That’s the theory of multiple insiders I spoke with. They say Carmody probably cannot get paid going forward without a new appropriation from the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, comprised of the mayor, comptroller and aldermanic president.
And that’s not all. The same reliable sources offered me this startling tidbit: Tisaby has been offered — and has rejected — a plea-bargain deal from Carmody’s team. I’m told that Tisaby could have received no jail time (actually credit for three days served) and a small amount of probation, followed by expungement of his record. That speaks volumes about the seriousness of this political errand.
I provided Carmody an email opportunity to confirm or amplify that and he has not responded as of press time.
The notion of Carmody having offered a deal to Tisaby would seem perfectly logical. No one has any reason to care about Tisaby doing time even if he were guilty as charged. But any admission of guilt would be an enormous victory for Team Carmody and especially a few interested parties, including the disgraced Greitens and the police officers’ union.
Perhaps Carmody could draw inspiration from the sage words of another member of the St. Louis legal community when faced with the question of whether to hold up or fold up.
“It is time for us to move on. I remain confident that we have the evidence required to pursue charges. But sometimes, pursuing charges is not the right or just thing to do for our city or state.”
That was Gardner explaining in May 2018 why she accepted the offer from Greitens and his lawyers to resign if she dropped charges. That’s how the story ended three years ago, from her perspective, and how it really should end now.
But since it hasn’t, there’s one more stunning item of irony I stumbled upon: Jermaine Wooten, Tisaby’s attorney, has filed a motion to compel prosecutor Carmody to provide the defense with grand jury testimony and other materials Wooten claims have been improperly withheld by the prosecution.
Sound familiar? It’s right along the lines of what Gardner was accused of doing by Greitens’ dream team. And if that wasn’t enough, Wooten doubled down last month by filing a motion to sanction Carmody for failing to follow the motion to compel.
Paybacks are hell. But at least they’re normal, which is more than anyone can say for the Tisaby travesty.
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).