Greitens won't be charged for finance report on donor list

4 months 4 weeks 1 day ago Friday, May 18 2018 May 18, 2018 Friday, May 18, 2018 1:23:00 PM CDT May 18, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri prosecutor said Friday that he won't be filing any charges against Gov. Eric Greitens for the way his campaign reported the receipt of a charity donor list used for political fundraising.

The decision by Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson marked a victory for Greitens on the same day that the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature was to open a monthlong special session to decide whether to try to impeach the Republican governor for various allegations of misconduct.

Richardson issued a brief statement saying he had been provided information from Attorney General Josh Hawley's investigation into Greitens' campaign.

"After due consideration, I have decided not to file the criminal charge suggested" by the attorney general's office, Richardson said. He didn't explain why not and declined to comment further.

Hawley's office said it shared evidence in April supporting a potential misdemeanor charge of filing a false campaign finance report.

"Prosecuting Attorneys have the discretion whether to pursue criminal charges, but this Office stands by its determination that the information provided supports a determination of probable cause," Hawley spokeswoman Mary Compton said in a written statement.

Later Friday, Hawley asserted that Greitens' lacked the legal authority to hire private attorneys to represent the governor's office on impeachment proceedings, which Greitens' office disputed.

Greitens' campaign attorney Catherine Hanaway said Richardson's decision was gratifying.

"From the beginning, our position has been the governor and his campaign wouldn't and didn't do anything to hurt the charity he founded," Hanaway said.

Greitens already faces a felony charge in St. Louis of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing a donor list of The Mission Continues to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the permission of the veterans' charity he founded. That charge came after Hawley shared information with the St. Louis circuit attorney's office. No trial date has been set yet.

Richardson had jurisdiction to decide whether an additional charge should have been filed related to an amended campaign finance report that Greitens' campaign filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission in April 2017.

That report, which was the result of an ethics complaint settlement, listed the charity donor list as an in-kind contribution valued at $600 provided on March 1, 2015 by Danny Laub, who was functioning as Greitens' campaign manager.

But Laub testified to the attorney general this year that he wasn't the source of the donor list.

Records released this month by a special House investigatory committee show that Greitens himself received the donor list of The Mission Continues in 2014 so he could call key supporters and explain that he was stepping down as CEO.

The legislative report indicated that Greitens later directed political aides to work off the charity's list to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign — even though he had signed an agreement never to disclose the charity's confidential donor information.

Greitens' attorneys have contended he was entitled to use the list because it contained contact information for people he had cultivated as donors to the charity. But The Mission Continues says it never gave Greitens permission to use the list for political purposes, and federal law bars 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates.

The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens' campaign had obtained a list of individuals, corporations and other nonprofits that had given at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues. The AP reported that Greitens raised about $2 million from those who had previously given significant amounts to the charity.

At the time, Greitens denied working off the donor list but acknowledged soliciting campaign money from some of people he had gotten to know while working at the charity.

The charity donor list will be part of the focus of the special legislative session scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday to determine whether to try to impeach Greitens.

Lawmakers also will be considering allegations of sexual misconduct during what Greitens has described as a consensual affair in 2015. The St. Louis prosecutor on Tuesday dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge alleging Greitens had taken and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of the woman involved in the affair while she was at least partially nude.

The Missouri Constitution says executive officeholders can be impeached for crimes, misconduct and "moral turpitude," among other things. It does not require a conviction in a criminal court.

Greitens so far has declined to appear before a special House investigatory committee that's been taking testimony about allegations against him since March. He hasn't said whether will testify during the special session.

Greitens has hired attorneys Ross Garber and Eddie Greim to represent his office in the potential impeachment proceedings. Garber is to be paid $320 an hour and Greim's law firm $340 an hour from taxpayer funds.

But Hawley said Friday that the governor's office lacks the legal authority to hire private attorneys without the consent of the attorney general's office. Hawley said Greitens' office hadn't sought permission.

Greitens spokesman Parker Briden said it's a long-established fact that governors can hire attorneys to represent them in an official capacity.

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