Missouri Governor Eric Greitens Charged in Blackmail Scheme Against Ex-Mistress

Updated | Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has been charged with felony invasion of privacy after allegedly trying to blackmail his former mistress with a naked picture taken nearly three years ago, according to the indictment.

The indictment could lead to Greitens being forced to step down.

Minutes after the charge was revealed, New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin tweeted that he had spoken to Missouri state Senator Rob Schaaf, who said, "If he doesn't resign, the House should move swiftly to bring this to a resolution."

Greitens, who is a Republican like Schaaf, took a photo of a woman in a "state of full or partial nudity without the knowledge and consent" of the woman, states the charge, according to WSMV. The photo was taken "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."

I just saw MO Gov. Eric Greitens being led away in the custody of the St. Louis Sheriff.

— Robert Patrick (@rxpatrick) February 22, 2018

The case against Greitens, 43, stems from his admission shortly after taking office in January 2017 that he had an extramarital affair with his hairdresser. Local station News 4 obtained a recording of the woman saying Greitens tried to blackmail her with the photo to keep quiet, though the governor denies it.

The evidence was provided to the station by the woman's ex-husband, who said the affair dated back to March 2015. During his election campaign, Greitens had presented himself as "a proud husband and father."

The tape suggests otherwise.

"He said, 'I'll make you feel better. I'll make you feel good,'" the woman tells her ex on the tape. "And I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don't what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me."

She later says she saw a flash of light through the blindfold and then heard Greitens tell her, "You're never going to mention my name" because he would put "pictures of me everywhere."

"He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person," the husband told News 4.

A spokesman for Priorities USA, a Democratic super pac, trolled Greitens in a tweet late Thursday afternoon, saying the governor would not be attending the National Governors Association meetings this weekend in Washington, D.C., "due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict."

James Bennett, an attorney for Greitens, said earlier this year that the coverage of the Greitens affair was "a political hit piece."

"This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake," he said in January.

Spokesperson for St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office just confirmed to Wake Up To Politics that Gov. Greitens was taken into custody and is "in process"

— Gabe Fleisher (@WakeUp2Politics) February 22, 2018

Greitens was booked in the city jail on Thursday and later released on his own recognizance, city officials said. He is allowed to travel throughout the U.S. and is scheduled to appear in court on March 16.

In Missouri, taking a compromising picture without a person's consent alone is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. Invasion of privacy becomes a felony offense in the state if the person capturing the nonconsensual photo also "distributes the image to another ... or permits the dissemination by any means, to another person, of a videotape, photograph, or film." The crime then becomes a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

It is unclear whether Greitens will resign. In January, five Republican lawmakers publicly called on Greitens to step down or consider doing so, but they represented a small fraction of the 112-member GOP House caucus.

If Greitens leaves office, Lt. Governor Mike Parson—who remained silent around the controversy in January—would be sworn in to replace him.

Bennett did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek on Thursday afternoon. Parker Briden, a spokesman for Greitens, also could not be reached.

This story has been updated with more details on Greitens' case.

Greitens Indictment by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd