ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A St. Louis circuit attorney has launched an investigation to determine if Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens committed crimes linked to an affair.
Kimberly M. Gardner, the circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis, said Thursday, saying she will investigate allegations that Greitens blackmailed a woman he had an affair with in 2015.
Gardner released the following statement:
"The serious allegations against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens are very troubling. After further consideration, I have deicded to launch a formal investigation into the alleged actions of Governor Greitens.
"It is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confiendence from leaders. They must know that the Office of the Circuit Attorney will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city. Both parties and the people of St. Louis deserve a thorough investigation of these allegations.
"If anyone has any information related to this matter, I encourage them to contact my office immediately."
The Republican governor and his wife released a statement late Wednesday after the St. Louis television station KMOV reported he had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015.
Greitens acknowledged Wednesday night that he's been "unfaithful" in his marriage but denied allegations that he blackmailed the woman to stay quiet.
In the story that aired on KMOV-TV in St. Louis, the woman's ex-husband claimed Greitens blindfolded the woman, led her downstairs and then took a picture of her, which the ex-husband says he then used for blackmail.
In response to the circuit attorney's investigation, Greitens' attorney James Bennett issued the following statement:
"The Governor is very confident he will be cleared in any investigation. This is a three-year-old personal matter that presents no matters of public or legal interest. The facts will prove that fully. As we learned today, these false allegations are being advanced by political adversaries."
The identities of the woman and ex-husband were not released in KMOV's report. The woman allegedly involved did not comment on the record to the station, but her ex-husband provided an audio recording he made to KMOV in which a woman gives details about a sexual encounter.
The ex-husband claimed she was talking about herself and Greitens when she went to the Greitens' St. Louis home in March 2015. The woman did not know her then-husband was recording their conversation.
Several other St. Louis media outlets, including Fox 4's sister station Fox 2, also had the recording, but chose not to release it because the woman refused to comment. Once the recording became public, those St. Louis outlets felt compelled to release it as well.
Bennett said any allegations of violence are false, and the relationship was consensual.
"This was a consensual relationship that lasted multiple months and was years ago before Eric was elected Governor," Bennett said.
Greitens' attorney said Thursday that they believe the report was the result of a "political hit piece."
"The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a 'source' who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question," Bennett said. "This goes a long way to explaining what is going on. It's become clear this is a political hit piece. This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake."
On Thursday, some groups and individuals began calling for Greitens' resignation. But Bennett said the governor will not resign.
"The governor is not resigning and his plans are to continue to serve the people of Missouri," Bennett said Thursday.
When asked if the Attorney General's Office would open a probe into the allegations, AGO Deputy Chief of Staff Loree Anne Paradise released the following statement:
“Under Missouri law, jurisdiction over alleged criminal conduct of this nature rests with the Prosecuting Attorney in the place where the conduct occurred. If the Prosecuting Attorney has a legal conflict or lacks the resources to pursue an investigation, he or she may seek assistance from the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Attorney General’s Office.”
There is no confirmation any law enforcement agencies are involved in spite of the ex-husband’s claim of blackmail.