KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose victory in his first run for public office made him a rising Republican political figure, was indicted Thursday on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from an affair he had in 2015.
Greitens has acknowledged an extramarital relationship, but denied an allegation that he blackmailed the woman.
ALLEGATIONS AND INDICTMENT
Prosecutors say a St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.
The indictment states that Greitens took a picture of a woman “in a state of full or partial nudity” without her knowledge or consent. A spokeswoman for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says Greitens was taken into custody Thursday and released on his own recognizance.
In January, the governor and his wife, Sheena, issued a statement acknowledging that he’d been “unfaithful” in his marriage, but denying allegations that he blackmailed the woman so that she would stay quiet.
The statement followed a report by KMOV-TV in St. Louis that Greitens had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015. The report said the woman’s ex-husband alleged Greitens photographed her nude and threatened to release the images if she spoke about their relationship.
The 43-year-old Greitens was a one-time prospect to run for Congress as a Democrat but switched to the GOP to run in its 2016 primary to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. He emphasized both his past military service and his outsider status. Greitens won the governor’s race with 51 percent of the vote.
During his campaign, Greitens portrayed himself as a family man, saying in his announcement: “I’m a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father.” He and his wife married in 2011 and have 3- and 1-year-old sons.
Greitens was pegged as highly ambitious. He reserved the web address ericgreitensforpresident.com years ago.
Greitens is a former Rhodes scholar who joined the Navy in 2001 and had tours of duty in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Africa and Iraq.
His last deployment came while he was serving as a White House fellow in President George W. Bush’s administration. He once was chlorine-gassed in a suicide bomb attack but returned to duty three days later.
He’s been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He later founded and ran a veterans’ charity, The Mission Continues, and became a motivational speaker and best-selling author.
The governor’s fiscally conservative, anti-abortion, pro-gun rights politics have played well in conservative Missouri, but his criticism of elected officials as corrupt, career politicians has rubbed many legislators the wrong way.
His administration has also gained a reputation for being less than transparent because of its stiff-arming of reporters and several senior staff members’ use of the secretive Confide app.
He signed legislation last July to raise the legal standard for proving discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations, which prompted an advisory against traveling to the state from the Missouri NAACP.
And he maneuvered to appoint new members to the state Board of Education so that it would fire the state’s education commissioner.
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas.