Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was charged Friday with felony computer tampering, his second felony charge in two months, after an attorney general's office investigation into the veterans charity he founded.
The embattled first-term governor and former Navy SEAL has denied any criminal wrongdoing and vowed to remain in office despite a chorus of fellow Republicans calling for him to resign or face impeachment. He goes to trial next month for an unrelated charge of invasion of privacy.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is overseeing both cases against the governor.
Greitens released a statement Friday night attacking Gardner, contending that the new charges come after Gardner mishandled the other prosecution.
"Her case is falling apart — so today, she’s brought a new one," Greitens said. "By now, everyone knows what this is: this prosecutor will use any charge she can to smear me."
Greitens defended his work with the Mission Continues, a charity he founded in 2007 to connect veterans with volunteer opportunities in their home communities.
"I stand by that work. I will have my day in court. I will clear my name," he said. "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."
Friday's charges were the result of Attorney General Josh Hawley’s investigation into Greitens’ use of a donor list belonging to a charity called The Mission Continues.
Hawley, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate, said in a statement Friday evening that his 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."
Computer tampering is a class D felony. If convicted, the governor could face up to four years in prison.
When first confronted by the Associated Press in October 2016 with evidence that his campaign had used the charity's donor list to raise money, Greitens flatly denied it.
After a complaint was filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Greitens and his attorney last year signed a consent decree attesting that the list was given to his campaign in March 2015 as an in-kind donation from Daniel Laub, his campaign manager.
Yet The Mission Continues has been adamant that it did not — and would not — give Greitens’ campaign or any campaign its donor list. Doing so could violate federal law and put the charity’s tax-exempt status at risk. The charity has been equally unwavering in saying that it doesn’t even know who Laub is.
Earlier this year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch uncovered emails showing that Greitens’ former assistant sent The Mission Continues donor list to Laub and another campaign staff member two months earlier than what the governor attested to in the consent decree with the ethics commission.
Hawley said Tuesday there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the charity, only Greitens.
A probable cause statement released by Gardner's office Friday states that Greitens knew the list was taken without the charity's permission.
Gardner’s office also is prosecuting Greitens for invasion of privacy over allegations that he took a nude photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair in 2015 and threatened to release it if she revealed the relationship.
Gardner's office said that it would not be commenting further on Friday's charges. Her spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, said Greitens would not be booked or appear in court Friday night because prosecutors issued a summons rather than an arrest warrant.
Ryan said Greitens would appear for a preliminary hearing, booking and arraignment in the coming days.
Greitens' attorney, Ed Dowd, called the charge absurd.
"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," Dowd said in a statement.
Adding to the governor's political headaches is an ongoing investigation by a Missouri House committee. The committee released a report last week that included allegations of sexual coercion, physical violence and blackmail by the woman with whom Greitens had the affair.
Hawley also provided the evidence from his investigation into the governor's charity to the House committee, which plans to release its own investigation into the governor's charity in the near future.
Both Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and House Speaker Todd Richardson called on their fellow Republican to resign as governor following Hawley's announcement Tuesday. Richard said his preference would be to begin impeachment proceedings immediately if the governor does not step down.
House Minority Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, has already introduced a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings.
“One way or another, Eric Greitens’ short tenure as Missouri governor is about to end," McCann Beatty said in a statement Friday evening. "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.”
Here’s Gov. Eric Greitens’ full statement, issued Friday evening:
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. And she is using thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars to do all of this.
Her 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 Star's Steve Vockrodt contributed to this report.