Prosecutors drop charge against Missouri governor
St. Louis – Prosecutors on Monday abruptly dropped an invasion-of-privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens but said they still hope to pursue a case against him for allegedly taking a revealing photo of a woman with whom he has acknowledged having an affair.
The surprise move, announced after the third day of jury selection, came after the judge had granted a request by Greitens’ lawyers to call St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner as a witness for the defense. Greitens’ defense team has repeatedly criticized Gardner’s handling of the case, particularly her hiring of private investigator William Tisaby, whom Greitens’ lawyers have accused of perjury.
“The court’s order places the Circuit Attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination,” including by her own subordinates, Gardner spokeswoman Susan Ryan said in a statement.
It “leaves the Circuit Attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial,” Ryan said. “Therefore, the court has left the Circuit Attorney with no other legal option than to dismiss and refile this matter.”
She said a decision will be made later to either seek a special prosecutor or appoint one of Gardner’s assistants to proceed.
Greitens, 44, was charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking and transmitting a photo of an at least partially nude woman without her permission in 2015. If convicted, Greitens could have faced up to four years in prison. Greitens has denied criminal wrongdoing but has declined to directly answer questions about whether he took the photo.
Greitens has rejected calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats since he first admitted in January that he had an affair before he was elected governor in 2016.
The woman, who has been identified only as K.S. in court filings, has testified that Greitens bound her hands to exercise equipment in March 2015 in the basement of his St. Louis home, blindfolded her and removed her clothes before she saw a flash and heard what sounded like the click of a cellphone camera. She has said Greitens threatened to disseminate the photo if she spoke of their encounter but later told her he had deleted it.
Greitens’ indictment in February prompted the Missouri House to launch its own investigation. It released a report in April containing more testimony from the woman that Greitens had restrained, slapped, shoved, threatened and belittled her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
The committee released a second report May 2 with testimony about how Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign had used a donor list from The Mission Continues without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans’ charity he founded. Greitens also faces a felony charge in St. Louis for disclosing the donor list to his political fundraiser, though no trial date has been set.