Prosecutors on Monday dismissed a criminal charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, bringing a sudden halt to his trial just before it was set to begin and with jury selection already underway.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner dropped the felony invasion-of-privacy charge stemming from allegations that Greitens took a nude photo of a woman without her consent. The decision came after a judge ruled that the governor’s lawyers could potentially call Gardner as a witness in the trial.
“It’s a great victory and it has been a long time coming,” Greitens, 44, a Republican and a former Navy SEAL, told reporters after his case was dismissed. The governor has repeatedly denied any criminal wrongdoing and dismissed widespread, bipartisan calls for his resignation.
But Greitens’s political and criminal troubles aren’t over. The circuit attorney said she intends to refile the charge and may appoint a special prosecutor or one of her assistants to pursue the case. Greitens still faces another felony charge of computer tampering tied to allegations that he improperly used a veterans’ charity donor list to raise funds for his 2016 campaign for governor.
Legislative leaders in the Republican-controlled Missouri Senate on Monday renewed calls for the governor to resign. They said they will continue considering impeaching Greitens during a special session that is set to start this week.
The dismissal “does not change the facts” revealed to the House’s special committee investigating Greitens, the Republican leaders said in a statement Monday.
“The members of the House committee have discovered a disturbing pattern of allegations, most of which are completely separate from the case dismissed today,” Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe said in the statement. “We now hope the governor and his staff are more forthcoming with the facts, and they decide to appear before the special investigative committee.”
“The governor has lost the moral authority and the ability to lead the state going forward, and we reaffirm our call that he resign immediately,” the statement added. Leaders in the Republican-controlled House also urged the governor to “take advantage of our open offer to share his side of the facts” and testify to the House committee.
The circuit attorney’s announcement came on the third day of jury selection for Greitens’s trial. It also followed news that investigators were unable to find evidence in Greitens’s phone, email or Apple iCloud account proving that he took the alleged photo of the blindfolded woman, a hairdresser with whom he was having an extramarital affair in 2015, before his campaign for governor.
On Monday, the defense filed a new motion to dismiss the charge. Scott Rosenblum, one of the governor’s lawyers, accused the circuit attorney of “misconduct from the beginning of this case to the end,” as recently as last week. Rosenblum rejected the notion that prosecutors would refile the case, saying they had no evidence to support the charge.
Rosenblum told reporters the judge agreed to allow the defense team to name Gardner as a witness based on the possibility that she knew about alleged perjury committed by an investigator pursuing the case.
“The judge allowed us to endorse her as a witness,” Rosenblum said. “She made herself a witness to the perjury that her investigator created throughout the course of this case and his misconduct. She was the only witness.”
But in a statement Monday, Gardner said Greitens “has produced no compelling reason to include the Circuit Attorney as a witness for any purpose.”
“The defense team knows that the tactic of endorsing the Circuit Attorney as a witness is part of their ongoing effort to distract people from the defendant’s actions,” Gardner’s statement said. She called the decision by Circuit Judge Rex Burlison “unprecedented.”
“When the court and the defense team put the state in the impossible position of choosing between her professional obligations and the pursuit of justice, the Circuit Attorney will always choose the pursuit of justice,” Gardner said. “The court’s order leaves the Circuit Attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial.”
The embattled governor celebrated the announcement and once again asserted his innocence. He apologized for the “pain that this process and my actions have caused my family, my friends and the people of Missouri.”
“This experience has been humbling and I have emerged from it a changed man,” Greitens said. “I think that in all of our lives we have to deal with pain. And that if we work through it in the right way, we can work through pain and find wisdom.”
“At this time, I’d ask people of goodwill to come together so that all of us can continue to do good together,” Greitens added.
More from Morning Mix: