Eric Greitens gives closed deposition in child custody case

Missouri Republican Senate hopeful, ex-wife, remain silent after more than seven hours in courtroom

By: - July 20, 2022 7:56 pm

Former Gov. Eric Greitens, second from right, leaves the Boone County Courthouse Wednesday with his attorney, Gary Stamper, masked, after a 7 1/2-hour deposition hearing in the child custody case stemming from his 2020 divorce (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was in a closed courtroom with his ex-wife Sheena Greitens for more than seven hours Wednesday in their child custody case, and both declined to talk about what was said when pressed by reporters afterwards.

It was the first time Eric Greitens made statements under oath about the child and spousal abuse charges made by his ex-wife in a March affidavit and the first time Sheena Greitens has been cross-examined about those allegations.

“We were ordered not to talk about it,” Gary Stamper, who represents Eric Greitens, said, referring to instructions from Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider.

It is uncertain whether any of the exhibits not previously offered in the case will be made public or if a transcript or recording of the hearing will be released. The highly anticipated hearing was originally scheduled to take place in open court on July 15, but was postponed to Wednesday and closed on Schneider’s order.

The guardian ad litem – a court-appointed representative of the Greitens’ two children – had asked for the closed hearing.

Greitens, governor from 2017 until his resignation June 1, 2018, under a cloud of criminal and impeachment charges, is attempting a political comeback in the crowded Republican primary for U.S. Senate. He has consistently been among the three leaders, along with Attorney General Eric Schmitt and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, but his poll numbers have weakened as foes use the allegations made by Sheena Greitens against him in multi-million dollar television and digital media campaign.

Sheena Greitens, center, leaves the Boone County Courthouse Wednesday with her attorney, Helen Wade, left, after a 7 1/2-hour deposition hearing in the child custody case stemming from her 2020 divorce from former Gov. Eric Greitens (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

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.

In the March affidavit, Sheena Greitens said Eric Greitens’ “unstable and coercive” behavior included physical violence to their children, “such as cuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by his hair.” 

In addition to allegedly abusing his children, Sheena Greitens alleged Eric Greitens knocked her down and confiscated her cell phone, wallet and keys during a 2018 argument so she would be “unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home.”

In a subsequent sworn statement, Sheena Greitens said she had photos and documents to back up her charges and in a June interview with The Independent said she fled their home on June 11, 2018, in fear he would harm himself and the family.

Since March, Eric Greitens has publicly denied the charges and accused his ex-wife of working with his political enemies, including former presidential adviser Karl Rove and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to write the affidavit that contains the abuse allegations and to publicize it. 

With the primary less than two weeks away, a ruling that indicates which side Schneider believes, or public release of the transcript showing he admitted any of the allegations under oath, could make it a deciding factor in the race.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.