Updated April 20 at 7 p.m. with statements from Gov. Greitens and his attorney — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has charged Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens with a felony related to illegally taking a fundraising list from a veterans charity he co-founded. The charge, a class D felony, is for tampering with computer data.
It’s the latest legal malady for the GOP governor, who is also facing a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a revealing photo of a woman without her consent.
This particular matter stems from how Greitens’ campaign received a fundraising list from The Mission Continues, a veterans charity that Greitens help found before he ran for office. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said on April 18 that there was enough evidence to show that Greitens obtained the list illegally — adding that such a move constitutes a felony.
But Hawley said he didn’t have jurisdiction to charge Greitens with a crime. So he handed the evidence over to Gardner, who only had a few days to make a decision on whether to charge Greitens. She did so on late Friday afternoon.
“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," Hawley said in a statement. "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 a statement, Greitens said: "In the United States of America, you get your day in court. And when I have my day in court, I will clear my name. People will know the truth."
"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," he said. "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. 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," he added. "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."
Ed Dowd, an attorney for Greitens added the charge "makes no sense at all."
"Eric made the Mission Continues. He raised millions of dollars for it," Dowd said. "That money helped thousands of veterans transform their lives. He dedicated years of his life to creating the organization, and he spent the earliest period working for no pay. It was an extraordinary act of public service. 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."
The cloud around the fundraising list is not new.
In October 2016, the Associated Press reported that Greitens raised close to $2 million from people who also donated to The Mission Continues. The news service obtained a spreadsheet showing the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of people who gave at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues.
After initially denying that his campaign worked off a donor list from The Mission Continues, Greitens’ campaign was assessed a $1,000 fine by the Missouri Ethics Commission. Because the fine was paid within 45 days, the actual payment was only $100. The campaign amended its finance reports to show a $600 in-kind donation received byrom former campaign manager Danny Laub.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this year that Greitens’ former assistant sent the fundraising list to the Greitens campaign. That disclosure prompted former Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple to file an ethics complaint asking the Ethics Commission to refer Greitens for criminal prosecution.
Some Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, have questioned why Hawley waited so long to act. Hawley, who is running against McCaskill, said he had no political motive in making his recent move on the issue.
Hawley’s Tuesday news conference prompted House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard to call for Greitens’ resignation. The governor has steadfastly refused to resign. That means the GOP-controlled legislature may soon decide to impeach him.
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