The lurid saga of Missouri’s Republican governor Eric Greitens’s extramarital love life just took a major turn for the worse today when he was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury on a charge of felony invasion of privacy. According to at least one media report, Greitens was taken into custody by the St. Louis sheriff, though you have to figure he’ll make bail pretty quickly.
The charge stems from an alleged 2015 incident when Greitens was said to have taken surreptitious nude photographs of his illicit lover and then used them to blackmail her against telling anyone about their affair. The story came to light via a tape of the woman involved telling her then-husband about the affair and Greitens’s threats (and also what sounded like some physical abuse as well).
The governor has admitted having the affair, but is denying the blackmail and abuse claims. Now he’ll have to tell his side of the story in greater detail.
To be clear, it’s taking the nude photographs without knowledge or permission that constitutes invasion of privacy. What makes it a felony is that Greitens reportedly transmitted the photo or photos “in such a way that allows access to that image or video via a computer.” The charge carries a maximum punishment of four years in jail.
But aside from the legal peril Greitens faces, he’s in big trouble politically. He is not a very popular man in Jefferson City, even among his fellow Republicans. The abrasive “outsider” campaign he ran to become governor in 2016 alienated some pols, and he’s had a very rocky relationship with the GOP-controlled legislature the last year. He’s been under investigation not just for the sex scandal but for alleged campaign-finance and public-records violations.
There’s already been buzz about impeachment proceedings against Greitens, and the indictment could make that real very quickly. Under Missouri law, a majority of the state House can bring impeachment charges against a governor, who would then be tried by a special panel of judges appointed by the state senate. Impeachable offenses include any violation of law involving “moral turpitude;” pretty clearly Greitens’s alleged behavior would qualify abundantly.
The governor has lawyered up lavishly, and shows no signs so far of making a strategic retreat into plea bargains or a resignation. We’ll have to wait and see if the sheer humiliation of endless public discussion of his alleged behavior as the lousiest of lovers will eventually break him.