ST. LOUIS, MO — St. Louis prosecutors on Friday charged Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony for using a charity donor list for his 2016 political campaign, adding to the woes of the first-term Republican governor who responded by calling it another effort to "smear" him.
The charge of tampering with computer data is in addition to an earlier charge alleging Greitens took and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an extramarital affair in 2015. The new charge accuses Greitens of obtaining the donor list without permission from The Mission Continues, a St. Louis-based charity that Greitens founded. He previously paid a small fine to the state Ethics Commission for failing to report the list as a campaign contribution.
Greitens has been facing increasing pressure to resign — including from fellow Republicans — since a special House investigative committee’s report released April 11 that detailed allegations from the woman with whom he had the affair. She testified that Greitens restrained, slapped, grabbed, shoved and threatened her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
Greitens has denied committing any crimes and vowed to remain in office, calling the investigations into him a “political witch hunt.”
On Friday, he accused Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, of wasting "thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars."
"Her original case is falling apart — so today, she's brought a new one," Greitens said in a statement. "By now, everyone knows what this is: this prosecutor will use any charge she can to smear me."
Greitens previously called Gardner a “reckless liberal prosecutor” for leading the investigation that resulted in the invasion-of-privacy charge. His attorneys, in court hearings and filings, have painted a picture of an incompetent prosecutor who rather than working with police to investigate Greitens hired a private investigator who bungled the probe, hid evidence and lied to the court.
The Missouri governor said he stands by the work he's done with The Mission Continues and maintained that he will prove his innocence in court.
"This prosecutor can come after me with everything she's got, but as all faithful people know: in time comes the truth. And the time for truth is coming," Greitens said in a statement.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican whose office has been investigating The Mission Continues, announced Tuesday that he had found evidence to support a felony charge against Greitens, but said it was up to the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office to file charges. That office had to move quickly because the statute of limitations was approaching.
Gardner’s office began investigating after KMOV-TV in St. Louis first reported the affair on Jan. 10, the day Greitens was giving his annual State of the State speech. The governor acknowledged the affair but denied allegations that he had threatened to release a compromising photo of the woman if she disclosed the relationship. His trial in that case is scheduled to begin May 14.
Hawley’s office has said that its investigation into The Mission Continues began after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in February that it had obtained a copy of an email indicating that a Greitens' employee who previously worked at the charity had shared the donor list in January 2015 with Michael Hafner, who had been working for Greitens’ gubernatorial exploratory committee, and Danny Laub, Greitens’ first campaign manager.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar, and Hawley both won election in 2016 as maverick political outsiders. Hawley is now running to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, and Democrats have been running TV ads linking Hawley to Greitens. Democrats have criticized Hawley's earlier investigation that found no wrongdoing in Greitens' use of a text message-destroying app, and claimed he stepped up his investigation of the charity only after it became politically beneficial.
In the Legislature, meanwhile, Senate leaders are considering holding off on sending bills to Greitens amid the multiple investigations. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and Democratic Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh have not made a final decision, but Walsh has said she doesn't believe any bills signed by Greitens should become law.