An up-and-coming Republican governor has just been charged with a felony, leaving the state GOP scrambling to react. On Thursday, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was indicted on a charge of felony invasion of privacy, and according to one Republican representative, was taken away in handcuffs by the police. The indictment alleges that Greitens had an affair with a married woman, and attempted to keep her from going public with the story via a blackmail threat involving a secretly-taken nude photo. Greitens' attorney has staunchly denied the allegations, calling his client "absolutely innocent" and the charge "baseless and unfounded."
Specifically, the indictment claims that Greitens took a photo of the woman "in a state of full or partial nudity" without her knowledge or consent, then "transmitted" that image with a computer. The allegations had already been in the public record since last month, when St. Louis outlet KMOV 4 reported them, getting an admission from Greitens that he'd had the affair.
To be clear, Greitens has publicly acknowledged participating in the extramarital affair, but his attorney has forcefully denied the claims that he took a non-consensual nude photo, and that he attempted an act of blackmail. The attorney further told KMOV, while denying the charges, that he'd "never seen anything like" the case in "forty years of public and private practice."
The complete charge against Greitens, taken verbatim from the indictment, is as follows (if you'd like to see the document for yourself, you can do that here):
The defendant, in violation of Section 565.252, RSMo, committed the class D felony of invasion of privacy in the first degree, punishable upon conviction under Sections 558.011 and 560.011, RSMo, in that on or about March 21, 2015, in the city of St. Louis, State of Missouri, the defendant knowingly photographed K.S in a state of full or partial nudity without the knowledge and consent of K.S and in a place where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the defendant subsequently transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer.
If convicted, Greitens would be facing a sentence. In Missouri, a class D felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison, a development that would've seemed unthinkable this time last year. Greitens had been touted by some Republicans and political observers as a rising star ― he's also a veteran, having served as a Navy SEAL officer in Iraq and Afghanistan ― and someday, a potential presidential candidate. In fact, just last year, he spent some time hanging around in Iowa, a tried and true tradition for would-be presidential candidates.
Now, however, his political career seems to be in extreme jeopardy, and could well be over whether or not he's convicted. In fact, according to The Kansas City Star, it's not out of the question that Greitens could face impeachment by his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives.
The editorial board of The Kansas City Star has also called for Greitens to resign in light of the charge, arguing that he cannot effectively govern the state while under criminal indictment. As the op-ed notes, Greitens himself spoke out against the charge on Thursday, denying wrongdoing and calling the prosecutor in the case, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner a "reckless liberal prosecutor."
It remains to be seen what will happen to Greitens, although it's fair to say that he's now in a legally perilous position. As of this writing, Greitens has given no public indication that he intends to resign the governorship of the state of Missouri.