Updated Feb. 23 at 9:10 a.m. with additional comments from Kim Gardner — A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Gov. Eric Greitens for felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a semi-nude photo of a woman without her permission. Greitens was arrested Thursday afternoon, but was released without having to post bond.
One of his attorneys, Edward Dowd, said in a statement that he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges.
“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,” he said.
The indictment charges Greitens with one count of felony invasion of privacy for taking the picture, and then storing it in a way that it could be accessed by a computer. That factor made it a felony.
Greitens posted a statement on Facebook several hours after he was indicted.
A spokeswoman for circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner, whose office announced the charges, rebutted the allegations that the indictment was a political move.
"Despite the Governor's personal attacks, the Circuit Attorney believes the courtroom is the appropriate place to argue the facts, not the media," the statement said. "The Circuit Attorney makes charging decisions based upon facts and evidence."
The charges stem from an extramarital affair the governor had in 2015, before he announced his run for office. A report by KMOV accused the governor of threatening to blackmail the woman by making the photo public. Greitens admitted to the affair, but denied the allegations of blackmail.
The indictment says Greitens “knowingly photographed K.S [sic] in a state of full or partial nudity without the knowledge and consent of K.S. and in a place where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the defendant subsequently transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer” on March 21, 2015.
In a press release, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said, “They must know that the Office of the Circuit Attorney will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city. Both parties and the people of St. Louis deserve a thorough investigation of these allegations.”
Some politicians across party lines have called for Greitens’ resignation since news of the affair first came out.
Legally, Greitens can continue to serve as governor until he is actually convicted on the charges. His effectiveness in his job is likely to be seriously compromised, according to Dave Robertson, chair of political science the University of Missouri St. Louis.
“He’s a pretty determined individual and may very well want to keep going on in office and ignore this issue that’s hanging over him. I don’t know how many people will follow his lead, and that is a serious problem for a governor trying to accomplish things,” Robertson said.
Even if Greitens is found innocent, it is likely his political future is dead, as an indictment is more serious than mere accusations, Robertson said.
“This is more than a smudge — this is an indictment. And because that legal title hangs over this incident, now it’s going to be seen as much more serious. All you need to do if you are an opponent of a candidate who has been indicted is to run a TV ad with the big word ‘indicted’ on it, and that’s going to help persuade voters and donors to run for the hills as fast as they can.”
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said that the Democrats should wait to see the outcome of the allegations against Greitens before deciding whether to start impeachment proceedings.
But when asked if she thinks Greitens should resign, she said, “I think if I were in the governor’s position, I would resign for the good of the state.”
Several Republicans — Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo — released a joint statement saying they would assign a group of legislators to investigate the charges against Greitens.
“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,” they said.
House minority leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, released a statement questioning whether the governor should stay in office.
"It will be extremely difficult for the governor to effectively do his job with a felony indictment hanging over his head,” she said.
Senate Democratic leader Gina Walsh issued a statement connecting allegations against Greitens to the nationwide conversation on sexual harassment.
“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,” Walsh said. “It’s time our state takes a stand and ensures that women everywhere are able to seek the justice and equality they rightfully deserve.”
Steve Webber, Missouri Democratic Party Chairman, accused Republicans of supporting Greitens despite any wrongdoings.
He tweeted, “Everything about Eric Greitens — his dark money, his lies, his scandals, his crimes — has been a stain on Missouri. Through it all, the Republican Establishment has stood by him. Change can’t come soon enough.”
St. Louis County Republican Party chairman Bruce Buwalda noted that city Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who convened the grand jury, is a Democrat.
"It's going to feed calls for him to resign, but I think she's playing pure politics."
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said it amounts to a “big black mark” for Missouri. Schaaf has clashed often with the governor over his practice of raising campaign donations from non-profit groups that aren’t allowed to disclose their donors.
“The governor should resign immediately,” Schaaf said, “and if he doesn’t resign I think that the House needs to start its investigation and move quickly to resolve the situation.”
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, called on House Speaker Todd Richardson to begin impeachment proceedings.
“Gov. Greitens has to go,” Nasheed said in a statement. “Missourians thought they voted for a person of character and integrity, and instead they got a liar and alleged criminal.”
Under Missouri law, impeachment processes must begin in the Missouri House of Representatives.
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Jo Mannies and Marshall Griffin contributed to this report.