ST. LOUIS -- Prosecutors have dropped the invasion of privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is seeking a special prosecutor to refile the charge. The charges have been dropped in the meantime.
Assistant St. Louis Circuit Attorney Ronald Sullivan made the surprise announcement in court after the third day of jury selection in Greitens' trial. Sullivan cited the fact that Greitens' defense attorneys planned to call Gardner, whose handling of the case has been under constant criticism by Greitens attorneys, as a witness.
The charge against Greitens stems from his allegedly taking and transmitting a photo of a partially nude woman during a sexual encounter in 2015.
Greitens has acknowledged having what he says was a consensual affair but has denied criminal wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have acknowledged that they did not have the photo but left open the possibility that they would obtain it.
Defense lawyer Jim Martin said Monday that the circuit attorney’s office told Greitens’ team Friday that they had obtained information from the cloud but did not have a photo. Martin said prosecutors said they had stopped pursuing a photo.
Judge Rex Burlison asked prosecutor Sullivan if he had a response to the defense’s contention, and he said he did not.
Greitens posted the following statement on Facebook after the charge was dropped:
"Today, the prosecutor dropped the false charges against me.
"This was a great victory and a long time coming. I've said from the beginning that I am innocent.
"This experience has also been humbling, and I've emerged from it a changed man.
"I believe that in all of our lives, we have to deal with pain, and that if we deal with it in the right way, we can learn wisdom.
"We all have to deal with suffering, but if we deal with it in the right way, we can emerge with strength.
"I also believe, as many people of faith do, that even in the hardest situations, we can find blessings.
"Above all, I am sorry for the pain that this process and my actions have caused my family, my friends, and the people of Missouri.
"I am extraordinarily grateful for the tremendous patience and courage of friends, family, and people of faith, who have all recognized that in time comes the truth.
"We have a great mission before us. And at this time, I'd ask people of goodwill to come together so that we may continue to do good together."
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office released the following statement Monday:
"Since January, Governor Greitens and his defense team have taken a scorched-earth legal and media strategy and relentlessly attacked the intentions, character and integrity of every person involved in investigating the Governor’s behavior including Missouri House Committee members, the Attorney General, the Circuit Attorney and her team, his victim, her family and those who have called for his resignation.
"On February 22, 2018, a Grand Jury indicted Governor Greitens on Felony Invasion of Privacy. The Circuit Attorney has done everything in her power to remain focused on the facts and the truth of this matter. The Circuit Attorney and her team are ready, willing and able to go to trial this week on behalf of the people of the state of Missouri and Mr. Greitens’ victim.
"Last week, Governor Greitens made a motion to include the Circuit Attorney as a defense witness. A defendant who wishes to call a prosecutor as a witness must demonstrate a compelling and legitimate reason to do so. Governor Greitens has produced no compelling reason to include the Circuit Attorney as a witness for any purpose. The defense team knows that the tactic of endorsing the Circuit Attorney as a witness is part of their ongoing effort to distract people from the defendant’s actions that brought about both the felony Invasion of Privacy and Computer Tampering charges against him.
"22nd Circuit Judge Rex Burlison made an unpreceded decision by granting a request by Governor Greitens’ defense team to endorse the Circuit Attorney as a witness for the defense. The court’s order places the Circuit Attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination within the offer of proof by her own subordinates.
"While the court has other remedies, such as calling the private attorney of K.S. as a witness, it has chosen not to do so. When the court and the defense team put the state in the impossible position of choosing between her professional obligations and the pursuit of justice, the Circuit Attorney will always choose the pursuit of justice. The court’s order leaves the Circuit Attorney no adequate means of proceeding with this trial. Therefore, the court has left the Circuit Attorney with no other legal option than to dismiss and refile this matter.
"The Circuit Attorney and her team will research the best step forward for this case in light of the court’s ruling. The Circuit Attorney will be make a decision to either pursue a special prosecutor or make an appointment of one of her assistants to proceed."
Opening arguments were expected to begin Monday, but attorneys instead were still sorting through dozens of prospective jurors who would have decide the case. Jury selection began Thursday with a pool of 160 prospects.
Greitens faces a separate criminal charge in St. Louis of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing the donor list of The Mission Continues to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans’ charity he founded. No trial date has been set for that case.
The Legislature also is to convene Friday in a monthlong special session to consider whether to try to impeach Greitens.
Missouri House and Senate leaders also released statements about the dropped charge.
“The legislature is a separate and a co-equal branch of government with a separate responsibility entrusted to it by our Constitution," House leaders said. "We owe it to Missourians to have a fair and thorough investigation of the facts. To date the committee’s work has not only provided two reports on the facts to the General Assembly but, more importantly, it has also exposed additional concerns relating to the governor’s conduct. This is why we remain committed to that process and await any recommendations it has for the House. Without the pending trial this week, it allows the Governor to take advantage of our open offer to share his side of the facts."
“The dismissal of the felony invasion of privacy charge does not change the facts that have been revealed to the Missouri House of Representative’s Special Investigative Committee on Oversight," Senate leaders said. "The House’s investigation and the Circuit Attorney’s case are two separate paths. The members of the House committee have discovered a disturbing pattern of allegations, most of which are completely separate from the case dismissed today. They need time to finish their investigation. We now hope the governor and his staff are more forthcoming with the facts, and they decide to appear before the special investigative committee. The governor has lost the moral authority and the ability to lead the state going forward, and we reaffirm our call that he resign immediately.”