Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has been indicted by a grand jury on felony invasion of privacy charges.
He’s accused of knowingly photographing a woman he was having an affair within a state of full or partial nudity without her knowledge and consent.
The indictment says the encounter took place on or about March 21, 2015, well before Greitens took office in January 2017.
The single count charge claims Geitens transmitted the photograph in a manner that allowed access to the image through a computer. The charge is a Class D Felony which carries a prison sentence up to seven years or one year in jail, along with a fine up to $10,000.
KMIZ-TV reported a statement from Greitens attorney, Edward L. Dowd Jr. “In forty years of public and private practice, I have never seen anything like this. The charges against my client are baseless and unfounded. My client is absolutely innocent. We will be filing a motion to dismiss,” said Dowd.
The case stems from an investigation started by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner shortly after a St. Louis TV station aired a secret recording by the ex-husband of the woman Greitens was intimately involved with.
In the recording, the woman describes in detail how Greitens tied her up blindfolded and partially nude, snapped a photo of her, and then threatened to distribute the image if she told anyone about the encounter.
The woman, who is referred to by her initials K.S. in the indictment, has said that she wanted privacy. Last month, her attorney stated that she wanted to remain a private citizen and did not want to be part of the story. It’s not known if she’s changed her mind and is working with Circuit Attorney Gardner’s office.
The woman, K.S., has not been identified by name, and neither has her ex-husband who secretly recorded their conversation.
Investigators from Circuit Attorney Gardner’s office were in Jefferson City within the past week interviewing several lawmakers about Governor Greitens.
Susan Ryan, a spokesperson for Gardner, said Greitens was taken into custody at roughly 3:30 p.m. Thursday in St. Louis. He was released on his own recognizance within an hour after posting bond.
It’s not certain when Greitens will be arraigned. Online court records say Greitens is scheduled to return to court March 16th to appear before Judge Rex Burleson at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.
The legal problems and scandal surrounding the extramarital relationship have hampered Governor Greitens rise on the national political stage and tarnished his clean image.
There had been speculation that he would run for President in 2020 or 2024. He touted his credentials as a former Rhodes Scholar and Navy Seal in his campaign for governor and characterized himself as a proud father and husband.
Word of the grand jury investigation came through the lawyer of the Woman’s ex-husband. Attorney Albert Watkins disclosed the legal undertaking February 5th.
Thursday evening, Missouri Republican House leadership released a statement indicating a committee would be formed to investigate Greitens alleged illegal activity.
“We will carefully examine the facts contained in the indictment and answer the question as to whether or not the governor can lead our state while a felony case moves forward. The people of Missouri deserve no less. We will begin the process of tasking a group of legislators to investigate these serious charges.”
The joint statement was issued by Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo.
Governor Greitens also issued a statement Thursday evening reiterating his innocence and slamming the St. Louis Circuit Attorney.
“As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor. I did not commit a crime,” said Greitens. “The people of Missouri deserve better than a reckless liberal prosecutor who uses her office to score political points. I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action.”
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner is a former Democratic state lawmaker from St. Louis. Governor Greitens is a Republican serving his first term in a publicly elected office.
Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate released statements Thursday.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said, “It will be extremely difficult for the governor to effectively do his job with a felony indictment hanging over his head. While the criminal justice system must run its course, the governor needs to consider whether remaining in office under these circumstances is the right thing to do for not only himself and his family but for the people of Missouri.”
Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh said, “Too often, women in our state and nation are subject to intimidation, threats and even violence at the hands of those in power. No more. It’s time our state takes a stand and ensures that women everywhere are able to seek the justice and equality they rightfully deserve.”
Democratic State Senator Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis called for impeachment proceedings against Greitens in a statement. “Gov. Greitens has to go,” said Nasheed. “Missourians thought they voted for a person of character and integrity, and instead they got a liar and alleged criminal. I am calling on the Honorable Speaker of the House Todd Richardson to immediately begin the impeachment proceedings so that the people of Missouri can move forward.”
Republican Senator Caleb Rowden of Columbia called on the governor to step down or face impeachment. “For the sake of our state, I am calling on Governor Greitens to put an end to this distraction and resign immediately,” said Rowden. “Should he refuse to step aside, I will call on my colleagues in the House to take all necessary actions to remove the governor from office.”
Greitens combative style of operation within the Missouri political system has left him with few allies in either party, particularly among some fellow Republicans, who have been the target of some of his most full-throated attacks.