JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has been indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office announced the indictment Thursday afternoon. In a statement, a private attorney for Greitens denied the charges and said the Republican governor was "absolutely innocent."
According to a copy of the indictment, Greitens has been charged with a Class D felony.
In Missouri, invasion of privacy can include capturing the image of another person without their consent.
Greitens admitted Jan. 10 that he had an affair with a woman. He has denied the woman's claim — apparently recorded without her knowledge in March 2015 by her ex-husband — that he allegedly tied her up, photographed her and threatened to release the image if she spoke of their affair.
Greitens "knowingly photographed (the woman) in a state of full or partial nudity without the knowledge and consent of (the woman) and in a place where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and (Greitens) subsequently transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image by a computer," the indictment says.
Greitens had previously faced calls to resign. In a statement Thursday he said he has no intention of doing so.
“With today’s disappointing and misguided political decision, my confidence in our prosecutorial system is shaken, but not broken. I know this will be righted soon,” he said.
“The people of Missouri deserve better than a reckless liberal prosecutor who uses her office to score political points.
“I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action.”
Edward L. Dowd Jr., an attorney representing Greitens, said he would be moving to dismiss the charge.
"The charges against my client are baseless and unfounded. My client is absolutely innocent," Dowd said in a statement.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens
In previous comments, Greitens had said he made "a personal mistake" and was "sorry for the pain it caused to everyone impacted." The matter was something he and his wife wanted to deal with privately and from which they were moving on, Greitens repeatedly said.
While the governor had denied the blackmail allegations, he has never given a "yes" or "no" on the question of whether he photographed the woman.
St. Louis TV station KMOV broke the news of Greitens' affair admission and blackmail denial on Jan. 10, hours after the governor delivered his State of the State address. The ex-husband confronted the woman after learning of the affair and recorded her side of the story without her knowledge.
The News-Leader has determined the identities of the woman and her ex-husband but has not named them.
The encounter between Greitens and the woman, who knew him because she cut his hair, allegedly took place in the basement of the Greitens family home, where Greitens told her he was going to show her how to do a "proper pull-up."
The woman described how Greitens allegedly tied her to exercise equipment, blindfolded her, and pulled her pants down before photographing her. She told her ex-husband that she could see a camera flash through the material covering her eyes.
Gardner, a Democrat, noted that there is a three-year statute of limitations on the offense of invasion of privacy. The indictment comes about with about one month left before that time would have expired.
Online court documents indicate that Greitens was arrested by St. Louis police and released on his own recognizance. He has a hearing scheduled for March 16 in St. Louis, court documents say.
Al Watkins, the attorney for the ex-husband, stressed that the man was not politically motivated and said his client had two choices: wait for damage to occur or try to mitigate the damage.
"He wanted nothing to do with this," Watkins said. "For almost two years, he was trying to actively suppress the story for the benefit of protecting his kids and the image of their mother in their eyes."
Watkins declined to comment on anything related to grand jury proceedings.
An attorney for the woman with whom Greitens had an affair could not immediately be reached for comment.
State House Republican leaders said an investigation was forthcoming.
"We will carefully examine the facts contained in the indictment and answer the question as to whether or not the governor can lead our state while a felony case moves forward. The people of Missouri deserve no less," the GOP lawmakers said.
The top Democrat in the Missouri House, Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, questioned whether the pending indictment would affect his ability to lead Missouri.
"It will be extremely difficult for the governor to effectively do his job with a felony indictment hanging over his head," Beatty said. "While the criminal justice system must run its course, the governor needs to consider whether remaining in office under these circumstances is the right thing to do for not only himself and his family but for the people of Missouri."
Beatty stopped short of calling for Greitens' resignation or for the House to start impeachment proceedings.
"The legislature needs to be extremely careful to avoid doing anything that might interfere with the criminal investigation," Beatty said.
Still, a Democratic senator said she thought the time was ripe for impeachment, saying that Greitens "has to go."
"Missourians thought they voted for a person of character and integrity, and instead they got a liar and alleged criminal," Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said.
Greitens was elected in November 2016, winning about 51% of the vote to defeat former Attorney General Chris Koster. As part of his campaign, Greitens touted family values.
Contributing: Giacomo Bologna and Harrison Keegan of the News-Leader