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St. Louis – A St. Louis grand jury has 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 city circuit attorney’s office said Thursday.

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. Gardner declined comment beyond a brief news release.

Greitens’ attorney issued a scathing statement challenging the indictment.

“In 40 years of public and private practice, I have never seen anything like this,” attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. said in a statement. “The charges against my client are baseless and unfounded. My client is absolutely innocent.”

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.”

The penalty for first-degree invasion of privacy in Missouri is up to four years in prison.

Greitens was taken into custody in St. Louis and released on his own recognizance, said Susan Ryan, a spokeswoman for Gardner.

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. Gardner’s news release said it is a felony if a person transmits an image “in a manner that allows access to that image via a computer.”

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

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican, said he was shocked by the indictment and called it “certainly serious,” but said he needed time to review it before weighing in on whether the governor should step down.

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said in a statement it will 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.”

Greitens, 43, is an brash outsider whose resume as a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer made him a rising star in Republican politics. He admitted to the affair on the night of Jan. 10, shortly after he delivered the State of the State address to lawmakers.

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