Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was charged with felony privacy invasion last week following allegations that he took compromising photos of a former mistress. The photo was alleged to have been taken in an attempt to blackmail her into keeping silent about their affair. Increasingly it looks likely the Eric Greitens nude photo controversy is more likely topple the Republican governor than the scandal from the extramarital affair itself.
Greitens nude photo leads to Greitens mug shot
The St Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner opened an investigation into Governor Eric Greitens earlier this month. Although there was speculation that she was also investigating the Governor’s alleged use of so-called ‘dark money,’ a St Louis grand jury returned an indictment last week for felony privacy invasion. Governor Greitens was charged, mugshot and all.
As is often the case, the most damaging aspect of this scandal is not the original revelation – that Greitens conducted a secret extramarital affair with a his St Louis hairdresser (who has so far remained anonymous, but is named in the indictment as “K.S.”). Instead it appears the steps Greitens took to keep the affair secret are much more likely end his governorship just over a year after his swearing in.
According to a recording made by the ex-husband of K.S., which is listed as part of the evidence in the indictment, Greitens took a compromising photo of K.S that he could use as blackmail.
K.S. explained on the tape, “I knew he was being sexual, and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t know what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me. I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said, ‘You’re never going to mention my name.'”
Greitens admitted to the affair with K.S., and apologized to his wife, but denies the blackmail allegations.
A law for peeping toms and voyeurs?
Greiten’s attorneys have questioned the appropriateness of the law used for the indictment. They argue the law “applies to situations such as voyeurs or peeping toms who take photographs in locations such as restrooms, tanning beds, locker rooms, changing rooms, and bedrooms. The law does not apply to the participants in sexual activity.”
Awkwardly for the Greitens nude photo defence, the very Missouri law cited in his indictment has been used to convict someone who filmed a sexual partner during intercourse in 1999 (without threatening to blackmail them, it should be noted). Paul Henreid’s trial attorney made a similar argument at the time about the law being meant to target peeping toms, not those engaged in a consensual arrangement. In a deal with prosecutors Henreid plead guilty to invasion of privacy, but now is appealing to Greitens for a pardon.
“What’s good for the governor should be good for the gander,” said Henreid’s attorney, Al Watkins, who also represents the St Louis hairdresser K.S from the Greitens indictment.
Impeachment on the horizon
Instead of waiting on the results of legal action, the Missouri General Assembly has started its own investigation that could eventually lead to Grentens’ impeachment.
As reported in the St Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday, the Missouri House of Representatives worked through the weekend to set up an investigatory committee headed by Rep. Jay Banes. In a statement by Barnes, like Greitens a Republican, he said:
“This committee’s task is going to investigate facts. We’re going to do so in a way that is fair, thorough and timely.
“And we’re going to do it without any preordained results, which means we are going to be asking questions of witnesses on both sides and hope to have a process with full involvement from everyone involved in this matter.”
It was not clear if the committee would subpeona the woman known so far only as K.S., the subject of the Greitens nude photo.
In a later statement Barnes made it clear that impeachment was not a predetermined result.
But some of Greiten’s fellow Republicans are warning lawmakers to be careful not to pre-empt the will of the people.
Missouri State Senator Dan Brown said, “In this country, our leaders are chosen by the people every four years at free and fair elections. This is the very foundation of our democracy and only in the most extreme cases, based on the most reliable facts, should anyone ever second-guess the will of the voters.”
Presumably a felony conviction, if one comes, would count as a reliable fact. Even for Greitens’ fellow Republicans.