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Judge moves to preserve evidence in Confide lawsuit ahead of change in administration


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Resigning from his position as Governor of Missouri may have spared Eric Greitens a felony computer tampering trial, but a lawsuit over his use of a message-destroying app is plunging ahead.

The lawsuit was brought against Greitens and members of his staff by two St. Louis attorneys for open-records and retention law violations. Ben Sansone, on behalf of The Sunshine Project, and Mark Pedroli, Sansone’s attorney, filed the lawsuit on December 29, 2017, over Greitens use of Confide — an app that deletes text messages once they have been read and prevents the user from saving, forwarding, or taking screenshots of the messages.

On the morning following Greitens’ announcement that he is resigning from office, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem held a telephone hearing on the case.  He directed the attorneys to move to preserve that data on the phones mentioned in the lawsuit before Greitens officially leaves office at 5 p.m. Friday.

Robert Thompson, representing Greitens’ office, was directed to turn over a list of everyone who used Confide and the telephone numbers for those employees. Beetem also directed the drafting of orders for the data on the phones to be preserved by requiring a forensic expert to take mirror images of those phones to preserve any evidence.

The lawsuit is against Greitens in his official capacity as governor and the custodian of records in the Governor’s Office. As of 5:01 p.m. Friday, there will be a new governor and Thompson will be presenting a new client.

Attorney General Josh Hawley originally appointed Dowd Bennett to represent the Office of the Governor in the case since his office was also investigating the matter. Following the end of the AGO investigation into the matter, Dowd Bennett withdrew representation. Subsequently, Thompson was appointed to handle the governor’s defense.

At the beginning of March 2018, Hawley concluded that his office was unable to find any evidence that Greitens broke the law. However, at a press conference not long after that, he said if his office had the power of subpoena in Sunshine Law violation investigations he would reopen the matter.