Just yesterday I found myself writing about the shifting attitudes toward elected officials involved in sex scandals and how most of them manage to keep their political careers alive if the story involves only infidelity and not violence against women. One of the figures under discussion currently was Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who was preparing to go to trial on charges that he took a nude photo of his hairdresser when she was bound and blindfolded and threatened to blackmail her with it. The woman also claims that he slapped her. Last night that process came to a screeching halt when prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges. But it’s a bit more complicated than a decision to abandon the case, as the Washington Times explains.
Missouri prosecutors have dropped their criminal case against Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, blaming a judge’s ruling that the state’s chief prosecutor would have to take the stand and testify in the case.
The governor had been accused of invasion of privacy for taking a nude picture of the woman with whom he’d been having an affair.
According to a statement put out by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office on Monday, the decision came after the judge in the case ruled that Mr. Greitens‘ legal team would be allowed to call Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to the stand for questioning.
The Governor is describing this as a “great victory” in terms of what he claims are false charges against him and is asking everyone to move past this unpleasant episode and get back to work. But it’s not nearly that simple. The state didn’t drop the charges for a lack of interest in the case or some newly found belief that Greitens is innocent. The Governor’s defense team had claimed that one of the circuit attorneys prosecuting the case had acted improperly by hiring a private detective to look into the Governor’s affairs. (Pardon the pun.) The judge agreed and was going to allow the defense to question the attorney, leading to the decision by the prosecutors to drop the case on technical grounds.
At this point, they are retaining the option to either appoint a special prosecutor to bring the case up again or have the circuit attorney drop out and have one of her assistants start the process over. Either way, it certainly sounds like they’ll be coming back for another bite at the apple.
What we still don’t know is how strong their case was to begin with. Greitens admits to having an extramarital affair, but that’s still not illegal. Everything hinges on the claim of the hairdresser about that photograph. But the prosecutors have admitted that they don’t actually have the photo nor have they seen it. At this point, it’s unclear if the photo ever actually existed. All the evidence seems to come from a taped conversation between the mistress and her ex-husband where she is heard crying and mentioning the photo. But even then she doesn’t claim to have seen the photograph herself.
This case is the very definition of he said, she said and was probably always going to be tough to prosecute. As long as Greitens maintains his innocence on these charges, he likely won’t be driven from office, but another trial later this year isn’t going to do much for his political career either.