Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday afternoon by a St. Louis grand jury on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
The charge stems from a 2015 affair and allegations that he threatened to release a nude photograph of the woman, taken while she was blindfolded and her hands were bound, if she ever spoke publicly about the affair.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner launched a criminal investigation of the allegations last month shortly after they become public. The indictment accuses Greitens of not only knowingly photographing the women with whom he had an affair, but also transmitting the image “in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer.”
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After news of the indictment broke, Greitens was seen being led down a hallway in the local courthouse by several St. Louis city deputies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Officials later confirmed Greitens was taken into custody and then booked at the St. Louis Justice Center.
“As I have stated before, it is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confidence in their leaders,” Gardner said in a statement. “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.”
Greitens could not immediately be reached for comment. His attorney, Edward L. Dowd Jr., denounced the charge.
“In forty 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.”
The allegations against Greitens surfaced shortly after he delivered his annual State of the State address last month. The ex-husband of the woman with whom Greitens had an affair gave St. Louis TV station KMOV an audio recording of her confessing the affair and accusing Greitens of threatening to blackmail her.
Listen to woman describe her interactions with Gov. Eric Greitens
The allegations surfaced shortly after the governor delivered his annual State of the State address. Audio from The Associated Press. Neil Nakahodo and Shelly YangThe Kansas City Star
The woman involved in the matter has not made a comment and has repeatedly declined to participate in any news articles. The confession was recorded without her knowledge by her ex-husband and released to the media without her consent.
Greitens hired the St. Louis law firm Dowd Bennett to represent him in the circuit attorney’s criminal inquiry. In the last week, a former St. Louis circuit judge was added to his legal team, and Dowd Bennett hired a statehouse lobbyist who is employed by longtime GOP consultant Jeff Roe’s firm.
Last week, two investigators from the circuit attorney’s office were dispatched to the Capitol to interview lawmakers. Before they left town they had talked to roughly two dozen legislators, including House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican.
The investigators, both of whom have FBI experience, were back in Jefferson City this week interviewing more lawmakers.
According to lawmakers who were interviewed, the questions focused on the conversations and interactions legislators had with the governor about the affair and alleged blackmail before and after the story went public.
The allegations facing Greitens have hung over the Capitol for weeks.
A handful of Republican lawmakers quickly called on Greitens to resign. And earlier this week, while debating a bill that would outlaw “revenge porn,” Republicans overwhelming supported amending the bill to make it a felony to threaten someone with releasing a sexually explicit photo.
Greitens has bucked calls for his resignation, but the indictment could lead lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings and potentially force him out of office.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, said that the Missouri House “should move quickly to resolve the issue. They should investigate and let the process work. … They should act quickly.”
Rep. Nate Walker, a Kirksville Republican, called news of the indictment “tragic for the state of Missouri.”
“I think it’s tragic for Gov. Greitens and his family,” Walker said. “I find no joy in it, but sometimes people have to be held accountable for their actions.”
Walker, an early Greitens supporter, called for him to resign in the days after the allegations surfaced. He renewed those calls Thursday when asked whether the House should pursue impeachment.
“I called for him to step down three weeks ago because I thought this was going to happen. … My understanding was he was led off in handcuffs and that’s not a good sign for our executive of the state of Missouri,” Walker said. “He should resign.”
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, said it would 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,” she said.
A St. Louis grand jury on Thursday indicted Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
A St. Louis grand jury on Thursday indicted Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony charge of invasion of privacy. File photo AP