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Governor indicted for felony invasion of privacy

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted and taken into custody Thursday for felony invasion of privacy, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner’s office announced Thursday afternoon.

About 3:45 p.m., on the first floor of the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, a Post-Dispatch reporter saw Greitens being led down a hallway by several St. Louis city deputies.

Officials later confirmed Greitens was taken into custody and then booked at the St. Louis Justice Center. He is being released on a personal recognizance bond and will be allowed to travel, according to Gardner spokeswoman Susan Ryan.

A statement from Greitens’ lawyer strongly denied the charges, calling them “baseless and unfounded,” and said he will be filing a motion to dismiss.

Greitens was scheduled to travel to Washington this weekend for an annual meeting of the nation’s governors.

Gardner’s statement said a 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.

The indictment apparently stems from allegations made in media reports last month that, during the course of an extramarital affair, he took a photograph of his bound and partially nude lover and threatened to publicize it if she exposed the affair.

Greitens has admitted the affair but has denied the alleged threat.

The charges claim for the first time that Greitens actually transmitted imagery in connection with the allegations.

“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 a written statement.

On Jan. 10, the Post-Dispatch and other area media reported that Greitens, a first-term Republican elected in 2016, had had an extramarital affair near the start of that campaign, in 2015.

The allegation was put forward by the husband of Greitens’ lover, based on a surreptitious audio recording he made of a conversation with her.

The woman said in the recording that, during a consensual sexual encounter in Greitens’ St. Louis home in which she was bound and partly undressed, Greitens took a photo of her without her consent and threatened her with it.

There was nothing in the initial allegation to indicate that Greitens ever followed through on the alleged threat to disseminate the photo, and in fact the woman said later in the secretly recorded conversation that he’d later told her he’d erased it.

However, 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 permits the dissemination by any means, to another person, of a videotape, photograph, or film.”

In that case, the crime is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

In a statement, Greitens’ attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. said, “In forty years of public and private practice, I have never seen anything like this. The charges against my client are baseless and unfounded. My client is absolutely innocent. We will be filing a motion to dismiss.”

Allegations, and a tape

The woman had been Greitens’ hair stylist. Her ex-husband confronted her about the affair while it was in progress in 2015, and taped the conversation without her knowledge. Taping of conversations is legal in Missouri as long as at least one party knows about it. The husband later provided the audio to news outlets.

The Post-Dispatch, as other outlets, has declined to publicly identify the woman, because she has declined to talk to reporters.

The woman claims in the audio recording that on March 21, 2015, she went to Greitens’ home in the Central West End. There, in his basement, she said, he bound her to a piece of exercise equipment with some kind of tape, put a blindfold on her and began partly undressing her and touching her.

That part was consensual, she indicated in the audio, but she alleged he took a photo that wasn’t. She said in the audio that she wasn’t aware he was doing it until she saw a flash of light through the blindfold, followed by his alleged verbal threat.

“You’re never going to mention my name, otherwise this picture will be everywhere,” Greitens told the woman, she claimed on the audio.

Reaction in Jefferson City

Word of the indictment came just hours after most rank-and-file lawmakers had cleared out of the Capitol for the weekend.

In a third-floor hallway, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, shook his head as he heard the news and said it was too early for him to comment.

The No. 2 man in the Senate, Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said he was shocked at the indictment.

“I think that’s what most people’s reaction would be,” Kehoe said. “When you get news like this, it certainly catches people off guard. Elected officials are and should be held to a higher standard,”

Any kind of impeachment proceedings would start in the House.

Kehoe tried to tamp down concerns that the governor’s woes would zap the legislative session, which runs through mid-May.

“We will make sure that the ship runs straight and that some of the issues that are coming out don’t deter us from doing the right thing and protecting people from the wrong thing that could come out of this building,” Kehoe said.

When asked if Greitens should resign, Kehoe said, “I am not prepared to say that.”

Other legislators have said that he should resign. 

Sen. Gary Romine, R-Ste. Genevieve, said if the governor fails to resign, the House of Representatives should begin impeachment proceedings immediately.

“We need to get this behind us for the betterment of the state,” Romine said in a press release Thursday night. “It is clear the governor cannot lead effectively while defending himself against this criminal charge.”

Pictured is a mug shot of Gov. Eric Greitens following his arrest Thursday. 

Pictured is a mug shot of Gov. Eric Greitens following his arrest Thursday. 

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