|Eric Greitens mugshot|
The sitting governor of Missouri -- a "family values" Republican, with presidential ambitions, and a spectacular biography that includes a stint as a Navy SEAL -- has been indicted on charges related to an admitted extramarital affair that became public last month.
Gov. Eric Greitens was booked earlier today on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking and transmitting a non-consensual photo of his partly-nude lover shortly before his campaign for governor started, according to a report at stltoday.com:
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner's office announced the indictment Thursday afternoon. A Post-Dispatch reporter saw Greitens being led down a hallway by several St. Louis city deputies on the first floor of the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis at about 3:45 p.m. Officials later confirmed Greitens had been taken into custody and then booked at the St. Louis Justice Center.
Greitens, a Republican, declared his innocence in a written statement, and alleged the indictment is a "misguided political decision" by a "reckless liberal prosecutor." Gardner is a Democrat.
Greitens' legal team immediately filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, on grounds that any activity Greitens engaged in was "consensual."
Judge Rex M. Burlison allowed Greitens' release on a personal recognizance bond that permits him to travel freely throughout the United States. Greitens was scheduled to travel to Washington this weekend for an annual meeting of the nation’s governors.
Online court records indicate Greitens is due back in court on March 16.
Members of the Missouri House, which is led by Republicans, released a statement that they will conduct a joint investigation of the allegations against Greitens. The statement noted that any impeachment proceedings would begin in the House.
Circuit Attorney Gardner explained the legal grounds for the indictment. From stltoday.com:
Gardner, in her statement announcing the indictment, said the grand jury found probable cause to believe Greitens violated a Missouri statute that makes it a felony if a person transmits the image contained in the photograph or film in a manner that allows access to that image via a computer.
"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 the statement.
Earlier reports indicated Greitens took the photo and then erased the image. But today's indictment suggests his actions went much further than that. It also suggests Greitens lied to the public:
Gardner's written statement Thursday indicates there is now an allegation that he did in fact "transmit" the image at some point.
"This statute has a provision for both a felony and misdemeanor," Gardner said in her statement. "The law makes it a felony if a person transmits the image contained in the photograph or film in a manner that allows access to that image via a computer."
Under Missouri law, the crime of “invasion of privacy” includes creating “an image of another person” by any means, “without the person’s consent, while the person is in a state of full or partial nudity and is in a place where one would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
That offense alone — taking a compromising photo without a person’s consent, even without disseminating it or threatening to — is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Invasion of privacy becomes a felony offense in Missouri if the person taking the nonconsensual picture subsequently "distributes the image to another or transmits the image in a manner that allows access to that image via computer." In that case, the crime is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.
Vox News reports that the offense could be a Class D felony, which carries a term of up to seven years in prison.
The Kansas City Star has called for Greitens to step aside, at least temporarily:
We are not yet prepared to call for the governor to resign. But he should seriously consider declaring to the legislature — as allowed by the state constitution — that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would then serve until the case is resolved.
We take no joy in writing this recommendation. But Missourians deserve a full-time governor devoted to their welfare, not one focused on a felony accusation in court.
Greitens can blame no one but himself for this problem. He must make the problem his own and figure out a way to protect Missourians from the impact of his unacceptable behavior.