The decision to forgo criminal prosecution of former Gov. Eric Greitens will disappoint many Missourians, who hoped a full trial would illuminate his sordid behavior with a mistress in 2015.
Their frustration is understandable. Greitens has never testified under oath about the affair or about a picture he allegedly took of the victim, and he has never formally responded to accusations he forced himself on her.
He quit instead. That speaks volumes about Greitens’ behavior, even though the former governor will now be able to duck a full reckoning for his actions.
Missourians should not second-guess the decision of special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. They should be confident she used the facts and the law to reach her conclusion.
At the same time, the case provides ample evidence — yet again — that women who say they’ve been victimized by men are at a supreme disadvantage when it comes to legal protections against abuse.
Many of the governor’s supporters have claimed the evidence against him was based only the woman’s testimony. A picture was never found. There was no physical evidence of Greitens’ alleged abuse.
But that’s often true in cases of sexual assault. That establishes an extraordinarily high bar for a successful prosecution, Baker said Friday.
In this case, though, Missourians should never forget a state House committee said the woman’s assault claims were credible. Why? The woman came forward reluctantly. Unlike the former governor, she has no reason to lie.
Baker, who called Greitens’ behavior “abhorrent,” made that point repeatedly Friday. “She never wanted this,” Baker said of the victim. “She did tell the truth.”
The decision not to prosecute Greitens doesn’t change that. It simply shows us that a woman’s word alone is seldom enough to convict, a stark reality that surely discourages many women from coming forward.
The brutal examination that the woman endured from Greitens’ lawyers also could have a chilling effect for other victims. She faced intrusive and unnecessary questions about her wardrobe, her views on sex, her personal relationships.
She was not accused of wrongdoing. Greitens was. Yet he never answered the questions she was forced to confront.
Greitens’ expensive lawyers should be deeply ashamed of their professional conduct. Missourians should get a full accounting of how much they paid to defend their ex-governor, and how much his high-priced enablers earned.
We can guess what is likely to happen now. After a period of quiet and solitude, Eric Greitens will re-emerge. He’ll tour the country, giving speeches, loudly proclaiming his innocence.
Americans with long memories won’t buy any of it. They’ll remember Greitens for what he was, and is: an amoral, self-centered politician credibly accused of assault. A self-dealing candidate who also appears to have lied about a list of charity donors.
An ambitious governor who worked to keep his actions secret, while relying on dark money donations to punish perceived enemies. A politician detested by colleagues in both parties.
A man who left office in disgrace.
Jurors will not get to judge Greitens’ guilt or innocence. But the arc of justice is long, and Missourians know the truth.