ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis grand jury indicted Missouri Governor Eric Greitens Thursday on a felony invasion of privacy charge.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said the incident in question occurred March 21, 2015 in the city. Gardner began investigating the governor after Greitens admitted to having an extramarital affair with his hairdresser in the years before he was elected.
In a statement, Gov. Greitens accused Gardner of trying to "score political points."
As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor. I did not commit a crime.
With today’s disappointing and misguided political decision, my confidence in our prosecutorial system is shaken, but not broken. I know this will be righted soon.
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.
This will not for a moment deter me from doing the important work of the great people of Missouri.
According to our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Greitens was taken into custody by St. Louis sheriff's deputies.
Gardner said the grand jury found probable cause the governor violated Missouri Statute 556.252, which has a provision for either a felony or misdemeanor filing. The law makes it a felony if a person transmits an image or video in such a way that allows access to that image or video via a computer.
The indictment alleges Greitens took a picture of a woman either fully or partially nude without her knowledge or consent and then transmitted that image so he could have access to it at a later time.
The other woman later informed her husband that Greitens took the photo of her at his home and threatened to blackmail her if she ever went public about the affair. That woman's husband had secretly recorded their conversation and attempted to shop the story around to local media outlets.
Jim Bennett, one of the governor's attorneys, previously said the governor denied ever taking a picture of the woman in question. In a sit-down interview with Fox 2 News, Greitens said there was "no blackmail...no violence" regarding the affair. Republican and Democrat lawmakers in Jefferson City called for the governor's resignation in subsequent days and weeks.
Missouri State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) called on House Speaker Todd Richardson to begin impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo released a joint statement:
“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.”
Shortly after the indictment was made public Thursday, attorney Edwards L. Dowd Jr. said he would be filing a motion to dismiss the charges against Greitens.
“In 40 years of public and private practice, I have never seen anything like this," Dowd said. "The charges against my client are baseless and unfounded. My client is absolutely innocent. We will be filing a motion to dismiss.”
Greitens was taken to the St. Louis Justice Center and later released on a personal recognizance bond. He has a hearing scheduled at 9:00 a.m. on March 16, 2018.
Dowd released a second statement Thursday evening:
“We welcome reviewing this issue with the independent, bipartisan committee of the Missouri House of Representatives.
"For 40 years as an attorney for the public and for private litigants, I have never seen anything like this. The charges are unfounded and baseless. The Governor is absolutely innocent. Not only is he presumed innocent – he is innocent. This whole investigation is completely unusual.
"This statute has never been used like this in Missouri history. In unprecedented fashion, the Circuit Attorney circumvented the local police force and hired her own investigators - we attempted to meet with the Circuit Attorney and make the Governor available to discuss the issues. They refused. She proceeded to file an indictment that has no facts.
"We will work with the committee. We will be deposing witnesses and will be happy to share information with you with the Court’s permission.”
Susan Ryan, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, fired back against the governor's assertions that the indictment was politically motivated.
Despite the Governor’s personal attacks, the Circuit Attorney believes the courtroom is the appropriate place to argue the facts, not the media. Kim Gardner maintains her unwavering confidence in our system of justice to bring this matter to a fair and just resolution.
The lawyers for Governor Greitens contacted the Circuit Attorney’s Office yesterday to meet for a “secret” meeting next week of counsel only. The Circuit Attorney asked if the Governor would be making a statement that is any different from his public statements. His lawyers said they wanted to share the “human” side of his story. The Circuit Attorney makes charging decisions based upon facts and evidence. Without additional facts and information from the Governor, the meeting was not necessary.
It is not unusual for the Circuit Attorney to conduct an independent investigation. There are many examples over the previous 15 years where the Circuit Attorney conducted Grand Jury investigations without the use of the police department.