RFT FILE PHOTO
The mysterious someone who delivered $100,000 to attorney Albert Watkins by courier, helping subsidize his representation of the man who's led the charge against Governor Eric Greitens, could be exposed in court as early as Monday.
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison ruled today that Watkins will have to identify the source of the payment.
Watkins had said previously that he didn't know who'd sent him the money — only that it was clearly related to his work on the Greitens matter. But his lawyers said today in court that one of Watkins' clients "was involved" in the delivery of the money, which arrived in two payments of $50,000 each. That admission raises the specter of attorney-client privilege.
Watkins' attorney, Chuck Hatfield, also argued that source of the payments wasn't relevant
, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
. But the judge didn't buy the argument.
"I think that's a relevant inquiry," Burlison said, according to the Post-Dispatch
. "The answer to that question needs to be tracked down."
Watkins' client is the ex-husband of the hairdresser who had an affair with Greitens in the year before he was elected governor. (The RFT
is not naming him since revealing his identity could expose his former wife.) The man has protested that he only hired Watkins because he was receiving non-stop media inquiries and wanted to protect his family.
But the man's angry tweets about the situation only fanned the flames for the political gossips speculating about the affair. And the man later decided to go public, which ultimately caused the St. Louis Circuit Attorney to open a criminal case. It's only then that the hairdresser agreed to sit down with investigators from the prosecutor's office (she has still never spoken to the media
A famously media-savvy lawyer who has represented everyone from the family of Anthony Lamar Smith
to, yes, Rally Cat
, Watkins is proficient at both memorable soundbytes and getting clients press coverage. With his representation, the ex-husband told his story to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
(which opted not to publish anything) and KMOV (which aired a story on the night of Greitens' State of the Union address). The man provided recordings of his ex-wife discussing intimate details of her interactions with Greitens — including her allegation that Greitens tied her hands with exercise tape, blindfolded her and snapped a photo, warning her not to tell anyone of the encounter
Despite Watkins' assertions that the man was protecting his family's privacy, many people have questioned what drove him to provide KMOV with the recordings, as well as give an on-camera interview. Greitens' lawyers have argued that he may well have been motivated by the mysterious donor who couriered $100,000 to his lawyer.
The payment first came to light in the man's testimony to a committee of the House of Representatives investigating the governor for possible impeachment. Under questioning, the man said at least $15,000 had been given to his lawyers after he spoke to the Post-Dispatch
"to cover lawyer fees and all the things that were about to happen." That is before KMOV had first publicized the incident.
Unless his lawyers appeal Judge Burlison's decision, Watkins will be deposed on Monday.
He has consistently declined to discuss the payment — the first time many St. Louis reporters have ever heard Al Watkins refuse to comment.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.