UPDATE: Gov. Greitens charged with felony over charity donor list

3 months 3 weeks 5 days ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 5:45:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press and Emily Hannemann, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

ST. LOUIS - Gov. Eric Greitens is remaining defiant in the face of a new felony charge.

On Friday, St. Louis prosecutors charged the governor for his use of a charity donor list for his 2016 political campaign.

On his Facebook page, Greitens released the following statement:

"Two months ago, a prosecutor brought a case against me. She claimed she had evidence of a crime—but she’s produced none. She said her investigator would find the truth. Instead, her investigator lied under oath and created false evidence.

She is wasting thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars to do all of this.

Her original case is falling apart—so today, she’s brought a new one. By now, everyone knows what this is: this prosecutor will use any charge she can to smear me.

Thank goodness for the Constitution and our court system. In the United States of America, you’re innocent until proven guilty. In the United States of America, you get your day in court.

And when I have my day in court, I will clear my name. People will know the truth.

The latest charge is about my work at the Mission Continues. When I came home from Iraq after service as a Navy SEAL, I started the Mission Continues to help veterans. In the seven years I ran that organization, we helped thousands of veterans, won national awards for excellence, and became one of the finest veteran’s charities in the country.

Those were some of the best years of my life, and I am grateful every day for the chance to help the men and women I served with. I stand by that work.

I will have my day in court. I will clear my name. This prosecutor can come after me with everything she's got, but as all faithful people know: in time comes the truth. And the time for truth is coming."

The charge of tampering with computer data is in addition to an earlier charge alleging Greitens took and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an extramarital affair in 2015. The new charge accuses Greitens of obtaining the donor list from The Mission Continues without permission from the St. Louis-based charity that Greitens founded. He previously paid a small fine to the state Ethics Commission for failing to report the list as a campaign contribution.

Greitens has been facing increasing pressure to resign — including from fellow Republicans — since a special House investigative committee's report released April 11 that detailed allegations from the woman with whom he had the affair. She testified that Greitens restrained, slapped, grabbed, shoved and threatened her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.

Greitens has denied committing any crimes and vowed to remain in office, calling the investigations into him a "political witch hunt."

Greitens has called Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner a "reckless liberal prosecutor" for leading the investigation that resulted in the invasion-of-privacy charge. His attorneys, in court hearings and filings, have painted a picture of an incompetent prosecutor who rather than working with police to investigate Greitens hired a private investigator who bungled the investigation, hid evidence and lied to the court.

Gardner's office began investigating after KMOV-TV in St. Louis first reported on the affair on Jan. 10, the day Greitens was giving his annual State of the State speech. The governor acknowledged the affair but denied allegations that he had threatened to release a compromising photo of the woman if she disclosed the relationship. His trial in that case is scheduled to begin May 14.

Attorney General Josh Hawley's office has said its investigation into The Mission Continues began after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in February that it had it had obtained a copy of an email indicating that a Greitens employee who previously worked at the charity had shared the donor list in January 2015 with Michael Hafner, who had been working for Greitens' gubernatorial exploratory committee, and Danny Laub, Greitens' first campaign manager.

The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens' campaign obtained a list of top donors to The Mission Continues and raised nearly $2 million from donors who were on it. He initially denied to the AP that he had used the donor list for his campaign. But in April 2017, Greitens agreed to pay a $100 fine for failing to report that his gubernatorial campaign had, in fact, received the charity's donor list. Greitens' campaign filed amended finance reports referring to the list as an in-kind contribution valued at $600 and received March 1, 2015, from Laub.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar, and Hawley both won election in 2016 as maverick political outsiders. Hawley is now running to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, and Democrats have been running TV ads linking Hawley to Greitens. Democrats have criticized Hawley's earlier investigation that found no wrongdoing in Greitens' use of a text message-destroying app, and claimed he stepped up his investigation of the charity only after it became politically beneficial.

Hawley released the following statement regarding the charges:

 “St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner reviewed the evidence turned over to her by my office and determined that there is probable cause to file criminal charges against the Governor. The Office stands ready to assist the Circuit Attorney’s Office where appropriate and if needed. These are serious charges—and an important reminder that no one is above the law in Missouri. Like all criminal defendants, Governor Greitens is presumed innocent under the law until proven guilty."
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty has released the following statement regarding the charges:
“One way or another, Eric Greitens’ short tenure as Missouri governor is about to end. The only person who doesn’t understand that is Eric Greitens. Since he will not resign, the House of Representatives must immediately begin impeachment proceedings. This is far too important to delay to special session a month or more from now.”

UPDATE: Ed Dowd, Greitens' attorney, has released the following statement:

"This charge makes no sense at all.

Eric made the Mission Continues. He raised millions of dollars for it. That money helped thousands of veterans transform their lives. He dedicated years of his life to creating the organization, and he spent the earliest period working for no pay. It was an extraordinary act of public service.

Now he’s being accused of stealing an email list from an organization he built? Give me a break. Not only did he create this list donor by donor, friend by friend, but the Mission Continues still has the list.

The idea that this is a crime is absurd. How convenient that he's being charged just two days before the statute of limitations runs out on a so-called crime that's three years old.

The court will find Eric innocent of yet another absurd charge, and the people of Missouri will learn the true motives behind this action soon enough. This allegation is absurd, and Eric will be found innocent of this accusation in court."

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, responded to the new developments on Saturday afternoon at an event in Columbia.

“Well it’s just concerning, but the Missouri legislature is working through a process and the court system is working through a process and I am sure it will all work out in the end and the facts will come to light,” Hartzler said.

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