ST. LOUIS – A special prosecutor investigating former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Friday that she believed a woman's claim that Greitens took an unauthorized and compromising photo during an extramarital affair but that but there wasn't evidence to merit a criminal charge.
Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker declined to refile a felony invasion of privacy charge against Greitens, who resigned last week. A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens in February, accusing him of taking a photo of the woman during a March 2015 sexual encounter without her permission while she was blindfolded, bound at the hands and at least partially nude. But St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner abruptly dropped the charge last month after a judge said Greitens' attorneys could call Gardner as a witness, and Baker was later appointed to look into the case.
"I believe her statements about being photographed are true," Baker said. But without proof the photograph, the full weight of the case would have rested with the woman, who didn't want to go it alone, Baker said.
"In the words of this victim, quote, 'My heart just can't bear it,’" Baker said at a sometimes emotional news conference in Kansas City. "That statement still weighs heavily on me."
Greitens' attorney Jim Martin said in a statement that defense lawyers "agree with the prosecution that there was not sufficient evidence to file any charges."
The invasion of privacy case was among many problems the Republican governor faced. He also was accused of illegally using a donor list from a charity he founded to raise money for his campaign. That charge was dropped in exchange for Greitens' resignation, which came as legislators were meeting in special session to consider possible impeachment.
This week, the House also dropped a request that a judge enforce its subpoena for records relating to any coordination between Greitens, his campaign committee and a secretive nonprofit called A New Missouri that has supported Greitens' agenda.
Still pending is a complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission alleging Greitens' filed false reports related to the donor list from The Mission Continues, the St. Louis-based veterans charity he founded. It's also possible that a federal investigation is ongoing; the chairman of the House investigatory committee has said he spoke with the FBI this year about issues related to Greitens' political fundraising.
Greitens' troubles began in January when St. Louis station KMOV-TV reported that the governor had an affair in 2015 with his hairdresser and played a conversation secretly recorded by her husband in which she discussed the alleged photo. Greitens admitted to the affair shortly after the TV report, but denied criminal wrongdoing. Officials have not released the woman's name.
She testified to a special Missouri House committee that Greitens threatened to disseminate the photo if she spoke of their encounter but later told her he had deleted it. Greitens has repeatedly declined to answer media questions about whether he took the photo.
"If you don't have the photograph, it's hard to get the conviction," said Ben Trachtenberg, an associate law professor at the University of Missouri who teaches courses on evidence and criminal procedure.
Greteins' attorneys had argued that Gardner, a Democrat, was politically motivated in her prosecution of him. They also contended that a private investigator she hired for the case committed perjury and withheld evidence, which is why they sought to question her under oath
Scott Simpson, the attorney for the woman, said in a statement that he and his client "hope other women in similar situations are not discouraged by this process." The statement said "the most intimate" details of the woman's life "were made public by a vengeful ex-husband and a second man willing to spend millions of dollars spreading lies about her in an effort to save his political career." A Greitens' public relations consultant has said Greitens had accumulated a couple million dollars in bills.
Baker, a Democrat, said the woman was put through repeated depositions and interviews by Greitens' attorneys. She read some of their questions: "Who did your boobs?" ''Are your nipples pierced?" ''Are you a liar?"
The House committee's report in April also included the woman's testimony alleging Greitens had restrained, slapped, shoved, threatened and belittled her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
– Associated Press reporters David A. Lieb and Summer Ballentine contributed from Jefferson City.