Attorneys representing the state of Missouri announced Monday they will drop a felony invasion of privacy charge against Gov. Eric Greitens, after the attorney prosecuting the case was named as a witness in the trial.
However, the decision might only mark a temporary victory for Greitens. Prosecutors said they plan to name either a special prosecutor or one of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s assistants to refile the charge and move forward with the case.
“The court’s order leaves the Circuit Attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial,” Gardner’s office said in a statement. “Therefore, the court has left the circuit Attorney with no other legal option than to dismiss and refile this matter.”
Greitens’ team named Gardner as a possible defense witness, something her office’s statement called a tactic “to distract people from the defendant’s actions.”
Greitens faced the invasion of privacy charge stemming from a photo he allegedly took of a woman with whom he had an affair, when she was bound and blindfolded. The governor has also been charged with felony computer tampering relating to his campaign’s alleged use of a charity donor list.
As he has found himself in legal jeopardy, Greitens is confronting a fight for his political life, with Missouri House and Senate leaders set to convene a special legislative session Friday to consider impeaching the governor.
A Missouri House committee investigating Greitens is also moving ahead with its work, announcing in a brief meeting Monday that subpoenas have been issued for the Greitens for Missouri campaign, the pro-Greitens nonprofit group A New Missouri, and the governor’s former campaign manager and top political adviser Austin Chambers. CNN has previously reached out to Chambers’ attorney for comment but has not received a response.
Greitens has maintained his innocence of any crimes and panned the investigations into his conduct as a “political witch hunt.” But a roster of Missouri Republican lawmakers have called on the governor to step down, including Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the upcoming midterm elections.
Greitens celebrated the decision on Twitter.
“Today, the prosecutor dropped the false charges against me,” he said. “This was a great victory and a long time coming. I’ve said from the beginning that I am innocent.”
He added, “This experience has also been humbling, and I’ve emerged from it a changed man. I believe that in all of our lives, we have to deal with pain, and that if we deal with it in the right way, we can learn wisdom.”
Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo issued a joint statement calling for the legislature’s work investigating Greitens to continue.
“The legislature is a separate and a co-equal branch of government with a separate responsibility entrusted to it by our Constitution. We owe it to Missourians to have a fair and thorough investigation of the facts,” the statement said.
“To date the committee’s work has not only provided two reports on the facts to the General Assembly but, more importantly, it has also exposed additional concerns relating to the governor’s conduct. This is why we remain committed to that process and await any recommendations it has for the House. Without the pending trial this week, it allows the Governor to take advantage of our open offer to share his side of the facts.”
Republican Missouri Senate leaders similarly said the charge being dropped doesn’t change the situation.
“The dismissal of the felony invasion of privacy charge does not change the facts that have been revealed to the Missouri House of Representative’s Special Committee on Oversight,” the statement aid. “The House’s investigation and the Circuit Attorney’s case are two separate paths. The members of the House committee have discovered a disturbing pattern of allegations, most of which are completely separate from the case dismissed today.”
“They need time to finish their investigation. 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.”