The story of Russ Faria is already fairly bizarre. Convicted of killing his wife, he was just granted a retrial after a news investigation by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the local Fox affiliate turned up serious questions about the original prosecution and newly discovered evidence that was not presented at the original trial. But that’s not what caught my attention about the story. It appears that just before the judge was going to decide whether or not there would be a new trial, the prosecutor in the case, Leah Askey, issued subpoenas to the two main journalists involved in the investigation, demanding all texts and emails between them and Askey’s ex-husband.
The full story is super confusing, but it appears to involve allegations that one of the witnesses used against Faria has been accused, by some, of actually having an affair with Askey:
The appeals court also mentioned an allegation that Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey was having an undisclosed romance with a police officer who testified against Faria.
Askey has denied having a relationship with the married officer, and issued subpoenas for Friday’s hearing lining up witnesses who include her ex-husband, stepbrother, a handwriting expert and two news reporters. She also had listed herself as a witness, until a defense attorney suggested that she be removed from the case for doing so.
The reporters in question, Robert Patrick from the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Chris Hayes from the Fox 2 affiliate had to get their lawyers involved to try to quash the subpoenas:
Subpoenas for testimony and documents also were served on reporters Chris Hayes of Fox 2 News and Robert Patrick of the Post-Dispatch, who worked together on investigating the Faria trial and civil litigation by Betsy Faria’s daughters against Hupp.
Lawyers for both reporters filed motions, still pending, to quash the subpoenas as a violation of the First Amendment, Missouri Constitution and common law “reporter’s privilege.” The motions also say that there “is strong reason to believe” the subpoenas were issued “with the intent to stifle critics.”
You think? Isn’t there a massive conflict of interest when a prosecutor who is being accused of questionable conduct in a case uses her power as a prosecutor to not just issue subpoenas over reporters’ sources, but especially when some of those sources are her own ex-husband? Wouldn’t standard practice be to immediately recuse yourself from the situation due to the incredibly obvious conflict of interest?
After granting the new trial, Askey apparently asked the judge if it had anything to do with the reports of her own relationship with the witness, and the judge said it was about the other evidence. The witness in question had been called to the stand and denied any such relationship.
Askey was the first to raise the romance issue in court Friday. It was settled when the investigator took the witness stand and denied any romantic relationship.
After Ohmer announced his decision to give Faria a new trial, Askey asked whether he was basing that decision solely on the Hupp material or whether he had found any evidence supporting the relationship.
“I did not. I did not touch that,” he said, saying that the only issue was Hupp.
So it appears the issue involving her ex-husband and the reporters has likely been put to rest, but still, it should raise serious questions about why no one stepped in to prevent it from happening in the first place.