The news media blared headlines last week when the ex-wife of Republican Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens filed an affidavit in their child custody case claiming he abused her and their children back in 2018 when they were still married.
But those reports ignored critical evidence sitting in public court files, a danger in family custody cases often steeped in nuances and emotional twists and turns.
For instance, the public court file shows the ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, signed another affidavit in 2020 in Missouri declaring there were no “genuine issue as to any material fact” in the couple’s divorce and that sharing custody of their two children with Eric Greitens was “in the best interest of the minor children.” That affidavit conflicts with her new one and also made no mention of abuse. You can read that here:
The court records also show Sheena Greitens recently lost two rulings in her bid to move management of the couple’s joint child custody from Missouri to her new home state of Texas, where she works as a college professor.
The first rejection – on procedural grounds – occurred last October, when Travis County Circuit Judge J. Andrew Hathcock ruled he had no power to order the custody management of the couple’s two children moved from Missouri to Texas.
“The statute is the Court that made the initial – the state that made the initial custody determination – retains continuing exclusive jurisdiction. I have no power to do anything about that,” the judge told Sheena Greitens’ lawyer, according to a transcript of the Oct. 28 hearing.
“I don’t have any authority to take the case,” the judge also said. “That’s completely Missouri’s call.”
The judge as a consolation offered to give the Missouri court a courtesy heads-up of the failed effort in Texas.
“I will be happy to communicate with the Judge in Missouri and just say, ‘Here’s the status in Texas. My reading of the statute is Missouri has continuing jurisdiction. I think the parties are going to be contacting you with a request on that, but it’s Missouri’s call to make,’ ” the judge said.
But when Sheena Greitens’ lawyers went to the Missouri court, they gave a different take on what the Texas judge had said, and again got overruled.
The lawyers claimed in a Missouri court filing dated Nov. 18 that the Texas judge had agreed to notify the Missouri court that “one or both parties may be contacting the Boone County court with a request for the Boone County court to decline jurisdictions. The parties were encouraged to file necessary pleadings to obtain the Boone County courts orders.”
The Missouri court on March 15 rejected that description of the Texas court’s action.
The Missouri court said that “having reviewed the transcript of hearing done in Travis County, Texas, regarding jurisdiction, (the) court finds that Travis County Texas Court requested that Boone County, Missouri Circuit court should decide what court should hear the jurisdictional issue including conducting the hearing regarding Inconvenient Forum,” the judge ruled earlier this month.
“Missouri Court on its own Motion pursuant to Section 452.770 also finds that the court in Boone County Missouri, should conduct the hearing regarding the issue of inconvenient forum,” the judge also said in a ruling that explicitly kept the case in Missouri’s court system for now. A followup hearing was scheduled for next month.
The Missouri court ruling was issued March 15, just six days before Sheena Greitens filed a new affidavit claiming her husband, the former Missouri governor, had been physically abusive to her and their two children and demonstrated such “unstable and coercive behavior” in 2018 that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms.
The media reports covering that affidavit made no mention of the two recent court rulings or the 2020 affidavit Sheena Greitens had filed in the case.
In her earlier affidavit, Sheena Greitens, who filed for the divorce, suggested the divorce and custody were amicable.
“There is no genuine issue as to any material fact,” the affidavit stated. “Petitioner and Respondent have entered into a Joint Parenting Plan, which the parties believe to be in the best interest of the minor children.
“Petitioner and Respondent request that the Court incorporate the terms of the Joint Parenting Plan in the Judgment of Dissolution.”
Sheena Greitens and her lawyer did not respond to calls seeking comment last week and again on Tuesday.
Greitens, a Republican, was leading in the GOP primary polls for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat before his ex-wife filed the explosive child-abuse allegations.
He is trying to make a political comeback after a scandal over an affair he had with a hairdresser forced him to resign the Missouri governorship in 2018 and led to his divorce.
His resignation came after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner criminally charged him with taking a compromising photo of the hairdresser.
The charges were dramatically dropped when Gardner admitted she did not have evidence the photo was taken and the woman testified she may have dreamed up the allegation.
A former FBI agent who was the lead investigator in the Greitens case was subsequently charged with seven felonies for misconduct during the investigation. That ex-agent pled guilty last week to evidence tampering.
Gardner has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing but has been accused by Missouri’s chief legal disciplinarian with violating dozens of attorney standards of conducts during the prosecution, including withholding exculpatory evidence.
She faces a hearing on those allegations on April 11 and has denied wrongdoing.
The Greitens case has taken other twists and turns since the abuse allegation was made.
Breitbart News reported that a major political donor adviser named Steve Hantler alleged that conservative political consultant Karl Rove had “prior knowledge” of the Greitens abuse allegations and had warned donors about them in the days before Sheena Greitens filed her new affidavit.
Eric Greitens has emphatically denied the abuse allegations, which were reported by local and national media, and said Rove’s involvement was concerning and potential evidence of political interference.
Sheena Greitens issued a statement claiming she never discussed the affidavit with anyone other than her lawyers and was simply concerned about the best interest of her children.
The court file shows Eric Greitens’ lawyer on Monday filed a request with the Missouri court handing the child custody case seeking permission for a subpoena, raising speculation he might subpoena Rove. Greitens’ team scheduled a 5 p.m. ET news conference on Tuesday.
In a statement to Just the News, Rove did not dispute he had the call with Hantler and the donors or that he had some contact with Sheena Greitens. But he strongly disputed a claim by Hantler that he offered to broker a meeting with the ex-wife.
Rove said Hantler has been a big supporter of Greitens “and it is patently absurd that I’d had proposed a meeting between him and Sheena Greitens, even if it were in my power to arrange it.”
Hantler told Just the News he stands by his account of his conversation with Rove.
Editor’s Note: Eric Greitens briefly appeared as host of a TV show in 2020-21 on Real America’s Voice, one of Just the News’ partners.