A former stripper convicted of secretly recording women while he was having sex with them has a request for Missouri’s embattled governor, who he says is waging a similar fight against the same law:
The former stripper in question is Paul Henreid, a California lawyer with political ambitions and a self-described documentary filmmaker. He makes no secret of his sordid past, moonlighting as a stripper with the stage name Geno. But he says that nearly two decades ago, he was convicted of the same felony that Gov. Eric Greitens was charged with last week: invasion of privacy.
Henreid’s attorney, Albert Watkins, told The Washington Post that they decided to ask the governor to take a new look at the still-pending pardon request because Greitens is using a similar argument in asking a judge to throw out his own charge.
The governor was indicted Thursday in connection with a compromising photo he is alleged to have taken, without consent, of a woman with whom he was having an affair. The woman is his former hairstylist; both were married at the time of the 2015 affair. Later, the woman claims, Greitens told her that if she ever exposed their relationship, he would distribute the picture.
In attempting to get the indictment dismissed, Greitens’s attorney has argued that the law under which he is charged is aimed at “peeping Toms,” not someone engaged in a consensual relationship. The governor’s motion does not deny that the photo exists, but it says the woman involved had no expectation of privacy when it was taken.
Watkins, who said he had a feeling of deja vu when he read the governor’s motion, headlined his news release about the pardon effort: “What’s good for the governor should be good for the gander.”
He said he has no illusions that Greitens will act on the pardon petition immediately, given the firestorm the governor is engulfed in and its political ripples.
The salacious story involving Greitens has made national headlines, but he has brushed off calls for his resignation. He has denied trying to blackmail the woman and said that although his actions were morally wrong, they weren’t against the law.
“As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor,” the governor said in a statement on Facebook. “I did not commit a crime.”
That is essentially the same thing Henreid has been saying since 2011, in his application for a pardon.
“The law under which both the governor and my client have been charged is a law that has commonly been referred to as the ‘peeping Tom’ statute,” Watkins told The Post. “It applies to people that would set up a nanny cam in a public bathroom or take photographs of people while they were in a locker room in a state of undress. The plain interpretation of the law, just based on how it’s worded, doesn’t correspond to the actions of my client.”
In the late 1990s, Watkins’s client was living a double life, court documents say. Henreid (his last name used to be Henroid) was a student at the Washington University School of Law who also happened to moonlight as an exotic dancer at an over-21 club in St. Louis.
At some point, he got involved with a girl who worked in the club’s coat-check room. Their relationship became sexual, acts that he recorded without her knowledge using a camera hidden in a clock-radio casing in his room. He called it the Geno-cam.
The relationship soured. Henreid moved to California for a law clerkship. A friend of his who was a personal trainer started dating the girl, according to court documents provided by Henreid’s attorney. And that friend told the girl that Henreid had secretly videotaped their sexual encounters — and that he had other tapes of other women, too.
The ex-girlfriend went to police.
Investigators recovered more than 11 hours of video involving six women, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A little later, Henreid was in court, pleading guilty to a felony. Although he is apologetic about his actions, his clemency documents say he took a plea deal under duress. The girl from the coat check was actually a girl — she was 17 when they had sex and when he recorded her, making the video child pornography.
His attorney says he took a plea deal after prosecutors told him that they would drop the child porn charges and ask the judge to structure his conviction in such a way that it would ultimately disappear from his record.
On the day Henreid pleaded guilty, the judge accepted his plea but gave him a harsher sentence: thirty nights in jail. Also, the felony conviction would stay on his record, threatening to derail his legal career.
“I am going to impose sentence,” the judge said, after telling him that she had seen some of the videos he admitted to recording. “I do not feel you should be allowed to engage in the occupation of attorney at law because you have shown no regard for that law or for the rights of others.
“Even though [the victims] chose to voluntarily engage in sexual activity with you, they did not choose to have those moments captured on Kodak and to be exploited and have those moments shown to others and ultimately to become an exhibit in this courtroom.”
Nearly two decades later, Henreid’s attorney says his client is a much different man, marred by a law he believes is unfair.
“Our client, in the 20 years since this has happened, has been an upstanding citizen,” Watkins said. “He has paid his debt. He has done what he had to do. He has finished law school. He’s a lawyer. He has political aspirations.”
An initial request for clemency went nowhere. It wasn’t denied by then-Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon; he simply didn’t act on it.
But Watkins said Missouri has a new governor, and now, another thing has changed:
“Now you have a sitting governor who is literally arguing the exact same legal rationale that was argued by us.”