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Influential Lawyer: Ed Dowd

Dowd Bennett attorney Ed Dowd, shown at his Ladue home with his dog, Bull, represents American Traffic Solutions, Missouri’s largest red-light and speed-camera operator. Photo by Karen Elshout

Ed Dowd

Dowd Bennett

Ed Dowd’s initial assessment of the case against Gov. Eric Greitens turned out to be wrong.

“At first I thought it would be a nothing case,” he said. “I didn’t think there was any prosecutor in the country who would bring a three-year-old case relating to sex between two people where there was no complaint made to the police for three years.”

Dowd and his firm, Dowd Bennett, came to represent the then-governor after a January 2018 news report revealed that Greitens had an extramarital affair in 2015. A recording of the woman with whom he’d had the affair indicated that he might have taken a photo of her while she was blindfolded and undressed to ensure her silence — a charge that Greitens vehemently denied. No photo was ever discovered.

Nonetheless, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office indicted Greitens for felony invasion-of-privacy, which Dowd’s team argued in court papers was a novel and unintended use of the statute. Greitens’ criminal exposure deepened when the St. Louis prosecutor added a second complaint against Greitens for felony computer-data tampering, based on allegations that his gubernatorial campaign improperly obtained a donor list from the veterans’ charity he had founded, The Mission Continues.

Dowd found himself fighting a two-front war, not only in court in St. Louis but also in the Missouri House, where lawmakers launched their own investigation of Greitens’ conduct as a potential prelude to impeachment. Dowd faced calls to make the governor available to speak to the House’s investigative committee, even as the criminal trials loomed.

“I would never commit malpractice like that,” Dowd said. “That’s not even a close call.”

In the end, Dowd Bennett’s defense of the governor was successful but imperfect. The invasion-of-privacy case ended when Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner herself was called on the eve of trail to testify about the conduct of an investigator she’d hired for the case, prompting her to dismiss the charge to prevent a conflict.

The data-tampering charge remained pending until late May, when Greitens abruptly announced that he would resign effective June 1. Dowd said the decision to resign was made by Greitens, but as a result his team was able to get the circuit attorney’s office to agree to dismiss the case. Greitens kept his freedom but lost his office.

Dowd was not Greitens’ only lawyer, but he was the most prominent — a great irony, as Dowd is a self-described “born and bred Democrat” who said he voted for Chris Koster, Greitens’ Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.

“I really believe in our electoral system,” Dowd said. “I don’t think you should overturn an election where the people elected a governor, regardless of what your political views are and his political views are. I don’t think you do that by bringing cases with no basis in fact.”

Dowd’s defense of Gov. Eric Greitens was hardly his first big case, and it wasn’t his last. He’s a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri and served as special counsel in the investigation of the 1993 raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Dowd Bennett has handled cases ranging from a massive case against the MetroLink transportation system to defense of Anheuser Busch in a high profile sex-discrimination claim brought by a former executive.

Even as the Greitens’ case was at its peak, Dowd was finishing his term as president of The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, with projects ranging from the anti-poverty fundraising program Attorneys Against Hunger to the annual Motion for Kids holiday party for children in foster care or whose parents are in the criminal justice system.

Dowd said he remains proud of the work he did on Greitens’ case, noting that lawyers are supposed to represent people whether they’re popular or not.

“Frankly, if somebody doesn’t like what I do, I couldn’t care less,” Dowd said. “I make those choices, I know exactly what I’m doing and I stand by them. And I’m never going to apologize for them.”

And, he adds, he’s still voting Democratic.

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