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Grand Jury Indicts Missouri Governor   02/23 06:07

   ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A St. Louis grand jury on Thursday indicted Missouri Gov. 
Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a 
compromising photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015. The 
Republican governor responded that he made a mistake but committed no crime.

   St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner launched an investigation in January 
after Greitens admitted to an affair with his St. Louis hairdresser that began 
in March 2015. He was elected governor in November 2016.

   Thursday's indictment was followed with an announcement by House Republican 
leaders that they were forming a group of lawmakers to investigate the charges 
"and answer the question as to whether or not the governor can lead our state 
while a felony case moves forward."

   In a statement following the indictment , the Republican governor was 
defiant and attacked the prosecutor who brought the charge.

   "As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor," he 
said. "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."

   Greitens' attorney, in a separate statement, called the indictment "baseless 
and unfounded."

   "In 40 years of public and private practice, I have never seen anything like 
this," attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. said.

   Gardner's spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, responded: "Despite the Governor's 
personal attacks, the Circuit Attorney believes the courtroom is the 
appropriate place to argue the facts, not the media."

   Greitens' legal team immediately filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on 
the grounds that any relationship with the woman was consensual.

   Some lawmakers renewed suggestions that Greitens should consider resigning, 
as they had done when the affair first become public last month.

   Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis called for an impeachment 
process to begin immediately.

   "Gov. Greitens has to go," Nasheed said. "Missourians thought they voted for 
a person of character and integrity, and instead they got a liar and alleged 
criminal."

   Any impeachment process must begin in the House with an investigation.

   The joint statement from House Speaker Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem 
Elijah Haahr and Majority Leader Rob Vescovo did not specifically mention 
impeachment while noting that they were initiating an investigation.

   The indictment states that on March 21, 2015, Greitens photographed a woman 
identified only by her initials "in a state of full or partial nudity" without 
her knowledge or consent. The indictment said Greitens "transmitted the image 
contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a 
computer."

   In 2015, the woman told her husband, who was secretly taping the 
conversation, that Greitens took the compromising photo of her at his home and 
threatened to use it as blackmail if she spoke about the affair.

   The penalty for first-degree invasion of privacy in Missouri is a sentence 
of up to four years behind bars.

   Greitens was taken into custody in St. Louis and released on his own 
recognizance. He is due in court for his first hearing on March 16, before 
Circuit Judge Rex Burlison.

   Greitens has repeatedly denied blackmailing the woman, but has repeatedly 
refused to answer questions about whether he took a photo.

   The indictment came about a month before the statute of limitations would 
have run out. The statute of limitations for invasion of privacy in Missouri is 
three years.

   Ryan, asked if additional charges could be filed, said the matter is still 
under investigation. Several lawmakers were questioned last week by 
investigators from Gardner's office.

   Greitens, the 43-year-old father of two young boys, came into office as a 
political outsider, a brash Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer who was 
wounded in Iraq, emerging as the winner in a crowded and expensive GOP primary.

   A former boxer and martial arts expert, he has embraced the role of 
maverick. He responded to a Democratic attack ad in the fall of 2016 with one 
of his own in which he fired more than 100 rounds from a machine gun as an 
announcer declared he'd bring out "the big guns" to fight Democratic policies 
championed by then-President Barack Obama.

   Greitens surprised many experts by defeating Democratic Attorney General 
Chris Koster in the November 2016 election. Some saw him as a rising Republican 
star with potential presidential aspirations.

   But governing hasn't always been easy, even though Republicans now control 
both houses as well as the governor's mansion. Greitens and GOP lawmakers have 
often clashed, with him comparing some to third-graders and labeling them 
"career politicians."

   He has also faced questions about so-called "dark money" campaign 
contributions and criticism for stacking the state board of education. His use 
of a secretive app that deletes messages is under investigation by Republican 
Attorney General Josh Hawley.

   Greitens' charity, The Mission Continues, faced scrutiny during the campaign 
when Democrats accused him of insider politics for accessing the donor list to 
raise about $2 million through its top contributors.


(KA)

 
 
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