Updated at 5:15 p.m. June 8 with comments from Jean Peters Baker — A special prosecutor has decided not to charge former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in connection with an affair he had before he became governor.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Friday that while she believed Greitens’ actions may have been criminal, she did not have enough evidence to take a case to trial.
“I find her credible, and I believe her statements about being photographed are true,” Baker said of the woman with whom Greitens had the affair. “She had no vendetta. Without other evidence to support her accounting, she just didn’t want to go it alone. In the words of this victim, ‘My heart just can’t bear it.’”
Greitens’ attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Baker’s decision. They have said in the past the initial charges were part of a political witch hunt.
Baker took over the case last month, after her counterpart in St. Louis, Kim Gardner, dropped a felony invasion of privacy charge because of allegations of impropriety with the investigation. Greitens was accused of taking a semi-nude photo of the woman and then transmitting it in a way it could be accessed by computer.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Gardner said she commended her colleague for a “gutsy decision to review the invasion case involving Eric Greitens, despite all of the mischaracterizations and attacks of those involved. I stand by my original decision to charge this case, and I respect Ms. Baker’s decision today.”
Neither Gardner’s nor Baker’s investigation turned up evidence of a photo, although Baker said her office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol dedicated considerable resources to trying to find it.
“I cannot even begin to express my level of frustration in simply trying to get potential evidence in this case, especially working against the clock,” she said. Baker had very little time left to decide whether to again file the invasion of privacy charge.
Baker said her office interviewed a number of witnesses that had not yet been talked to, although she did not specify who they were and said they ultimately did not provide any evidence. And she said she learned on June 1 that the defense team had reviewed Greitens' phone data in April, although she did not know which of his multiple phones was involved. Gardner's office pulled data from the phone in May.
“We reviewed this material at our very, very first opportunity,” which was Wednesday, Baker said, a review that extended into Thursday and included an analyst from the Highway Patrol.
“Yesterday, we determined that at least 31,000 fewer files existed between the April extraction and the May extraction of the phone,” Baker said. "I know that they’re gone. Whether or not they were intentionally deleted, how they were deleted, why they were deleted, I don’t know."
She said it did not appear Gardner’s office knew about the earlier data dump.
Other possible charges
The woman had also accused Greitens of physical and sexual abuse, something the governor had denied. Baker said her office had considered issuing a variety of charges against Greitens over those accusations, including domestic assault and sexual contact without the woman's consent. But in many cases, she said, the statute of limitations had run out or she did not have enough evidence.
In a statement, the woman’s attorney, Scott Simpson, thanked Baker, the Highway Patrol, and “all who have supported her and believed her testimony. That support lifted her spirits and helped her through this challenging time.
“As my client, and the citizens of this state, move past this difficult time in Missouri’s history, we hope other women in similar situations are not discouraged by the process,” Simpson said. “It takes real courage to testify once, let alone six times, but that courage exposes the truth.”
Without the governor’s resignation, Baker said, the woman would have had to testify again on June 5 in front of the state House committee investigating Greitens.
“And she was ready to do it,” Baker said. “However, she never wanted this. She never willingly came forward, but she did tell the truth. Some of the questions she faced were less than respectful. To anyone who has attempted to harm her, I hope you can defend yourself and your practices.”
Matthew Huffman, the public affairs director at the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said it was important that Gardner, Baker and the House committee had all found the woman credible.
“It sends a really strong message that when and if survivors choose to come forward that they will be believed,” he said.
Simpson blamed the woman’s ex-husband for “selling her private story for a six-figure payout.” The ex-husband’s attorney, Al Watkins, had said he received $120,000 in cash from an unknown source to help his client deal with the fallout of revealing the story. Scott Faughn, the publisher of the Missouri Times, claimed he was the source of the money, something Watkins denied. Watkins said Faughn initially told him the money came from a disgruntled Republican who was against Greitens.
Greitens resigned June 1 as part of a deal with Gardner over a separate felony charge connected to his use of a list of donors to his charity, The Mission Continues, for his campaign. In that agreement, Greitens said there was evidence to bring a case against him.
Baker said she negotiated briefly with Greitens’ attorneys on a similar deal.
“While some cases it may be appropriate to quit your job, walk away, but for this fact pattern, that’s really just not appropriate. It doesn’t settle the score. It’s not justice,” she said.
State Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, said she hoped someone — “whether it’s law enforcement, whether it’s an an investigation done by a House committee” would continue to investigate the source of Greitens’ money.
“Just because he’s not in office anymore, I still think there’s cause to be concerned over the influence of this money on politics,” she said. “I think Missourians and elected officials need to know the source of money that’s trying to influence our government.”
KCUR’s Elle Moxley contributed reporting
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