On Thursday, a St. Louis grand jury 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.
Here’s a roundup of what’s happened so far and what’s ahead:
What’s already happened
Greitens has been charged with a class D felony, according to his indictment. Missouri has five felony types; A is most severe and E is least severe. Missouri statutes say that the maximum penalty for a class D felony is seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Taking a picture of a person “without their knowledge or consent” can be a misdemeanor or felony. The indictment alleges that because Greitens “transmitted” the photo on a digital device, he committed a felony.
If convicted of a felony, Greitens would not be legally able to serve as governor.
The next steps
Greitens’ next court appearance is scheduled for March 16. During a brief court appearance on Feb. 22, he was officially informed of the charges against him, and released without having to pay bail, which is known as personal recognizance. He has not yet entered a plea.
At this first court appearance, the court formally informs the defendant of charges against them. They must enter a plea at this time.
Peter Joy, a professor of law at Washington University School of Law, said that at many felony arraignments, defendants who have lawyers file to waive their court appearance so that they don’t have to attend court in person. “That happens very frequently, because it saves a person an extra trip to court,” said Joy. “If it is waived, that won’t be anything unusual because that happens in most cases where there is a lawyer.”
One of Greitens’ attorneys, Edward Dowd, filed a motion to dismiss the charges, and said in a statement, “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.”
Considering the motion to dismiss
The prosecutors’ office must respond to the motion to dismiss. The judge can either decide based on the filing or schedule a hearing.
“The ideal from the defense point of view is the case gets dismissed,” Joy said.
Generally, this hearing would happen after a felony arraignment, Joy said.
“I wouldn’t imagine the judge ruling on that before the scheduled date of March 16,” he explained. The circuit attorney’s office usually has 14 to 30 days to respond to a motion to dismiss.
Joy said that Greitens’ lawyers will likely focus on getting the case dismissed as soon as possible. “As long as the case is out there, that’s going to be a cloud over the governor, the same way that any felony charge against any citizen in the state is a cloud over their life,” he said.
Dismissing a case more quickly can diminish the long-term consequences of a felony charge, said Joy.
If the defense wins, the state can appeal the decision. “Even if the dismissal gets granted, it’ll depend on whether or not the prosecutor’s office thinks that the judge had good reason to grant it,” or if there's something that the judge missed, said Joy.
During this process, both the prosecution and defense will gather evidence. Discovery can take anywhere from two to 20 months, depending on the complexity of the case, said Michael Wolff, professor emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law.
He said that based on the publicly known number of witnesses in this case, it might take less — rather than more — time, but that could change.
Over several weeks, the judge will use “status conferences” to determine how much more time the attorney’s office and the defense need before the case can go to trial, said Joy.
Joy said that less serious felonies like the class D charges against Greitens sometimes come to trial in less than a year.