ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis prosecutors on Friday charged Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony for his use of a charity donor list for his 2016 political campaign, adding to the first-term governor’s legal woes.
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 from The Mission Continues without permission from the 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.”
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.
Greitens has called Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim 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 investigation, hid evidence and lied to the court.
Gardner’s office began investigating after KMOV-TV in St. Louis first reported on 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 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.
The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens’ campaign obtained a list of top donors to The Mission Continues and raised nearly $2 million from donors who were on it. He initially denied to the AP that he had used the donor list for his campaign. But in April 2017, Greitens agreed to pay a $100 fine for failing to report that his gubernatorial campaign had, in fact, received the charity’s donor list. Greitens’ campaign filed amended finance reports referring to the list as an in-kind contribution valued at $600 and received March 1, 2015, from Laub.
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.