Computer tampering case against Greitens to be dropped
Jefferson City, Mo. – One of two felony criminal cases against Missouri Gov Eric Greitens will be dismissed now that the Republican governor has announced his resignation, St. Louis’ top prosecutor said Wednesday.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced that her office has reached a deal to dismiss a charge of computer data tampering. A day earlier, Greitens announced that he would step down from office effective Friday, citing “legal harassment.”
“I remain confident we have the evidence required to pursue charges against Mr. Greitens, but sometimes pursuing charges is not the right thing to do for our city or our state,” Gardner said.
The charge, filed in April following an investigation by the Missouri attorney general’s office, accused Greitens of using a donor list from the veterans charity he founded, The Mission Continues, for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
“Contrary to Mr. Grietens’ past statements, there was no witch hunt, no plans to bring pain to him or his family. Quite the contrary, the consequences Mr. Greitens has suffered he brought upon himself by his actions, his statements, his decisions, his ambition and his pursuit for power,” Gardner said. “Many of Mr. Greitens’ former colleagues and friends cooperated with our prosecution, not because they were threatened or harassed, but because it was the right thing to do.”
The governor also was indicted on invasion-of-privacy charges in February in St. Louis for allegedly taking an unauthorized and compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair in 2015, before he was elected. The charge was dropped earlier this month, but a special prosecutor is considering whether to refile it.
The special prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, said Tuesday that no deals have been made by her office with Greitens’ attorneys.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer, suggested less than two weeks ago that he would never quit fighting the allegations, even as the Legislature considered impeachment. Then he announced that he would quit.
“The time has come, though, to tend to those who have been wounded and to care for those who need us most,” said Greitens, his voice cracking while his team members struggled to hold back tears. “So for the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high.”
Greitens’ departure becomes official at 5 p.m. Friday – marking a stunning political defeat for the 44-year-old, self-made warrior-philosopher who had aspirations of someday becoming president.
For those fellow Republicans who had strenuously urged his resignation, Greitens’ exit provides the divided party a chance to reunify at the start of a summer campaign season that will include intense efforts to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Greitens’ resignation also allows him to avoid the distinction of becoming the first Missouri governor to be impeached. A House investigatory committee had subpoenaed Greitens to testify next Monday during a special monthlong session focused solely on his potential discipline.
Fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson – a former state lawmaker and sheriff – is to serve the remainder of Greitens’ term, which runs until January 2021.
Greitens could face other investigations. The chairman of the House investigatory committee and an attorney representing the woman’s ex-husband both have said they have shared information with FBI agents looking into the governor.
A complaint also remains pending at the Missouri Ethics Commission alleging Greitens filed a false campaign report last year about the source of the charity donor list.
On May 17, Greitens suggested to a crowd of supporters gathered for an agricultural event that he wouldn’t give up.
“No matter what they throw at me, no matter how painful they try to make it, no matter how much suffering they want to put me and my family through and my team through … we are going to step forward day after day after day, and we are going to continue in our mission to fight for the people of Missouri,” Greitens said then.
On Tuesday, Greitens remained defiant even while resigning.
“I am not perfect. But I have not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment,” he said. “I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history.”
Greitens, a married father of two young sons, is a Rhodes scholar with a doctoral degree in politics who traveled the world on humanitarian missions before joining the Navy. After being wounded in Iraq, he founded a veterans’ charity and became a best-selling author and motivational speaker.
He campaigned as a political outsider in 2016, winning an expensive Republican gubernatorial primary and then defeating Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in the general election to give Missouri Republicans control of the governor’s mansion for the first time in eight years.
Greitens had a sometimes rocky relationship with the GOP-controlled Legislature as he pushed his agenda, once comparing them to third-graders and frequently denouncing them as “career politicians.”
His support in the Capitol began to unravel after the night of Jan. 10, when a St. Louis TV station aired a report featuring an audio recording secretly made by a woman’s ex-husband. In that, the woman describes how Greitens allegedly bound her hands, blindfolded her and took a compromising photo while threatening that he would distribute it if she ever spoke of their encounter. Greitens denied threatening blackmail, but hasn’t directly answered questions about whether he took the photo.
A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on Feb. 22 on one felony count of invasion of privacy related to the alleged photo. That prompted the Missouri House to form a special investigatory committee.
In April, the legislative panel released a report containing graphic testimony in which the woman said Greitens had restrained, slapped, shoved and belittled her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid. Greitens denied any violence and said the allegations amounted to a “political witch hunt.” He vowed to stay in office.
But Greitens’ troubles deepened in the ensuing weeks when Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley – who is running for McCaskill’s seat – referred evidence to the St. Louis prosecutor leading to the felony charge alleging misuse of the charity donor list.
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