Judge orders Eric Greitens to give testimony in child custody case over lawyer’s objections

Deposition set for next week will be Senate candidate’s first under-oath statements about allegations of child and spousal abuse

By: - July 15, 2022 12:15 pm

Gary Stamper, left, attorney for former Gov. Eric Greitens, and Helen Wade, attorney for Sheena Greitens, argue a point during a hearing Friday in Columbia in the child custody case (pool photo by Don Shrubshell/ Columbia Daily Tribune).

Former Gov. Eric Greitens will give testimony next week for the first time about allegations of spousal and child abuse made by his ex-wife in a child custody case.

During a brief hearing Friday morning, Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider ordered both Eric Greitens and his ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, to appear for depositions in a closed courtroom. Whether a transcript of their testimony will become public is uncertain.

At times in the hearing, Schneider said she was frustrated because it has been eight months since Sheena Greitens filed a request to move the case to Texas and four months since Sheena Greitens filed an affidavit detailing her abuse charges.

“We just need to get it done,” Schneider said.

The hearing Friday was originally scheduled for both parties to testify and for their attorneys to present any final arguments and exhibits for Schneider to consider. But she agreed to allow the case to be submitted through exhibits and deposition testimony when court-appointed advocate Liz Magee on Monday raised concerns about the impact of publicity on the children.

Sheena Greitens’ attorney Helen Wade tried to set a deposition for Eric Greitens for this week but was unable to do so because his attorney, Gary Stamper, had a scheduling conflict.

During the hearing Friday, Stamper questioned whether depositions are needed at all. The allegations have become fodder for a $2.4 million ad campaign by Show Me Values, which is trying to defeat Eric Greitens in the GOP Senate primary.

“Now you can hear it 20 times a day, depending on where you get your news,” Stamper said.

Wade, however, said a deposition is essential to her case and Eric Greitens is trying to avoid being put under oath.

“I understand that Mr. Greitens does not want to give a deposition prior to the primary,” Wade said. “I understand, but we want this case to be over with.”

Sheena Greitens, right, looks at attorney Helen Wade Friday during a hearing in Columbia n the child custody case with her ex-husband, former Gov. Eric Greitens (pool photo by Don Shrubshell/ Columbia Daily Tribune).

Many of the allegations Sheena Greitens has made against her ex-husband involve his actions in 2018, when he resigned as governor amid criminal and impeachment investigations. She fled their home in June 2018, 10 days after he resigned, taking their children to her parents home out of fear he would harm the family.

He never testified about any of the issues raised in the criminal charges or impeachment hearings.

Sheena Greitens has accused him of physical abuse of their children, knocking her down and taking her phone, and threatening suicide. Sheena Greitens also said in sworn statements that he accused her of working with political enemies to leak those charges in 2018.

Through court filings and in public statements, Eric Greitens has denied the allegations, proclaimed his devotion to his sons and accused Sheena Greitens of lying and making the charges public in a conspiracy with political enemies including Karl Rove and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Greitens is attempting a political comeback in a crowded Republican field and how the public views his time as governor and the new abuse allegations could determine his fate at the polls. He is in a virtual tie with his chief rivals, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, in the latest public poll, conducted late last month.

Stamper argued that everything Schneider needed could be supplied with exhibits and an affidavit from Eric Greitens. And he was concerned that even those materials would be made public.

“I sincerely question the scope of the inquiry since there are no rules of evidence in a deposition and I’m genuinely concerned about release, disclosure, collateral use,” he said. 

Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider listens to arguments Friday during Eric and Sheena Greitens’ child custody hearing in Columbia (pool photo by Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune).

As she listened to the attorneys, Schneider’s exasperation grew at the delays.

“It was set for today,” she said. “I am ready to hear the evidence.”

And at one point, she asked if Sheena Greitens was ready to testify and indicated it should happen immediately.

As they discussed the scope of the deposition, Schneider cautioned the attorneys not to get too broad in their questions.

“I have a very limited issue I am dealing with,” Schneider said.

The issue before Schneider is whether jurisdiction over child custody decisions should be moved to Texas, where Sheena Greitens lives now, or remain in Boone County, where their divorce was filed in 2020. Sheena Greitens filed a case in Texas asking the courts there to take jurisdiction, but the judge deferred that decision to Schneider.

Scheduling the deposition was the last matter. When Stamper said Eric Greitens was not available Wednesday, Wade shot back that he has plenty of time for other activities.

“Well, he was available to go to Finland over the Fourth of July for five days,” she said.

After Wade argued that an affidavit would not do because she needs to be able to question Eric Greitens, Stamper said his client would comply.

“Eric is not afraid of a deposition,” Stamper said. “He is anxious to be heard if it is necessary.”

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.

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