JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Republican governor has already been indicted once by a grand jury, but now, Gov. Eric Greitens has been indicted once again, the second time this year.
On Friday, St. Louis City Prosecutor Kim Gardner announced the issuing of the second indictment against Greitens, coming just one month after the indictment of the governor on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
Gardner charged the 44-year-old Greitens with one count (and an alternative charge) of computer tampering, which is classified as a Class D felony.
The latest charges stem from the Governor’s use of a donor list from a veterans’ charity he helped start, The Mission Continues, during his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.
This comes on the heels of Attorney General Josh Hawley’s announcement this week that his office had uncovered “evidence of wrongdoing” by the governor, which was turned over to Gardner’s office.
Hawley stressed during the press conference that the statute of limitations was fast approaching, with later reports stating that Gardner had until the end of the week to file charges.
Following the news that charges had been filed Friday evening, Hawley released the following statement:
“St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner reviewed the evidence turned over to her by my office and determined that there is probable cause to file criminal charges against the Governor. The Office stands ready to assist the Circuit Attorney’s Office where appropriate and if needed. These are serious charges—and an important reminder that no one is above the law in Missouri. Like all criminal defendants, Governor Greitens is presumed innocent under the law until proven guilty.”
In response to the new charges, Greitens called the charges an attempt to smear me and said he will clear his name in court.
“The latest charge is about my work at the Mission Continues. When I came home from Iraq after service as a Navy SEAL, I started the Mission Continues to help veterans. In the seven years I ran that organization, we helped thousands of veterans, won national awards for excellence, and became one of the finest veteran’s charities in the country,” Greitens posted on Facebook. “Those were some of the best years of my life, and I am grateful every day for the chance to help the men and women I served with. I stand by that work.
“I will have my day in court. I will clear my name. 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.”
The story behind the allegations of the donor list begins in 2016 when the Associated Press was able to obtain a list containing more than 500 names and contact information for individuals who had donated at least $1,000 to the charity. Donors who had previously given to The Mission Continues gave Greitens nearly $2 million, with 85 percent of the more than $500,000 raised during the first two months of his campaign coming from donors of the charity. If the list was taken from the charity without permission and used for political purposes, then it could be considered an act of theft or embezzlement.
The Mission Continues has repeatedly denied that it gave the list to any campaign.
Ed Dowd, the governor’s defense attorney, cited that Greitens made the Mission Continues and help raised millions of dollars for it.
“Now he’s being accused of stealing an email list from an organization he built? Give me a break. Not only did he create this list donor by donor, friend by friend, but the Mission Continues still has the list,” said Dowd in a statement.
Since then, not only has the issue prompted subpoenas by three investigative entities – the Missouri Attorney General, a state House investigative committee, and the St. Louis City Prosecutor – but it’s already been an issue brought before the Missouri Ethics Commission.
After a complaint was filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission in 2016, and Greitens had won the general election, he settled with the commission, acknowledging that the campaign did, in fact, receive a donor list and did not report it on a disclosure form.
As part of the deal, the campaign revised its filings to show that former campaign manager Danny Laub contributed the list as an in-kind contribution. The campaign was fined $1,000 but only required to pay $100.
Several have questioned the MEC’s investigation, wondering if the commission should look into the matter again, but the recent news that the commission no longer has a quorum would mean that the commission is unable to conduct any business until a quorum is reached. And to do that, Gov. Greitens would have to appoint someone to the commission.
The Missouri Senate on Thursday approved one of Greitens’ appointments, giving the MEC a quorum and the authority once again to conduct business.
And while the investigations by several entities continue, The Mission Continues says they have and will continue to cooperate with all investigations and supply documents asked for.
The evidence supplied by Hawley’s office and used by Gardner has also been given to the House special investigative committee, which issued one report earlier this month concerning allegations of sexual misconduct.
That news, along with Hawley’s statement saying he believed there were enough grounds for impeachment proceedings and his announcement regarding the Mission Continues investigation, led the leaders of the General Assembly to issue their own calls for Greitens’ resignation this week.
Greitens, meanwhile, has denied any criminal wrongdoing, vowing to stay in office. He is scheduled to head to trial next month on the first charge.
And in an interesting turn of events, the judge appointed to the latest case, Madeline Connolly, was appointed by Greitens to the post on February 9, 2018.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.