When he announced his resignation as governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens castigated political opponents for having “designed” his legal troubles to ruin him and his family. Today, however, a prosecutor in St. Louis will announce a plea deal with Greitens in relation to one of those scandals, involving the use of a non-profit donor list for Greitens’ campaign:
Greitens was charged a month ago with felony computer tampering. He is accused of illegally obtaining a donor list to aid his 2016 election campaign from a veterans’ charity he founded in 2007.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement to local media on Tuesday that she has been in contact with the governor’s defense team and that she has “reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges.” …
Greitens had previously called the charges against him part of a political witch hunt and on Tuesday he complained of “legal harassment” with “no end in sight.”
Clearly this isn’t going to be an exoneration. The St. Louis Dispatch reports that the charge will get lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor, based on a source close to Greitens:
“I have been in contact with the Governor’s defense team over the past several days,” she said in a statement. “We have reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges. We will provide more information tomorrow.”
A source close to Greitens said Gardner would drop the felony data-tampering charge.
That, however, won’t end Greitens’ legal woes. Greitens’ other scandal involved allegations of an extramarital affair and felony invasion of privacy, but Gardner’s office got embarrassed by investigatorial incompetence and withdrew the charge. Thanks in part to claims and counterclaims of misconduct and a push from Greitens’ legal team to remove Gardner from the case, the whole mess got dropped into the lap of a special prosecutor from Jackson County. She made it clear yesterday that neither the resignation nor the plea deal with Gardner will impact her investigation:
Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who was named special prosecutor after the charge related to his extramarital affair was dropped this month, said her investigation continues.
“In the interest of pursuing justice to its fullest lengths, we will continue until our work on the case is completed,” Baker said in a statement. “Specifically regarding any deals we made with Governor Greitens’ attorneys, no deals were made by my office. Our review of this case, as I have stated before, will be pursued without fear or favor.”
That means Greitens remains in legal jeopardy even with the plea deal Gardner plans to announce later this morning. It might take weeks or months for the Baker probe to conclude — a period which could have paralyzed state government had Greitens remained in office. The legislature was set to impeach Greitens in part because of that very issue, and some Democrats still want lawmakers to continue that effort even with Greitens’ resignation:
“The brief and deeply troubled term of Eric Greitens is a case study for why Missouri’s highest elected office is no place for beginners,” said House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City. “Gov. Mike Parson possesses the integrity his predecessor lacked, and House Democrats will offer him whatever assistance we can as he begins the difficult task of restoring credibility to state government.”
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, said in a statement that “innocent people don’t resign and criminals don’t get let off the hook simply because they cut and run. Missourians deserve to know what laws were broken, what lies were told, and how deep the corruption went.”
Yes, but is that the state legislature’s job now that Greitens has resigned? The state legislature isn’t the proper venue for action against a private citizen, which Greitens will be after Friday, although they certainly have the authority to investigate for their own purposes. Any legal action will have to come from the special prosecutor, who has made clear that she’s not interested in deals, at least not at the moment. Greitens may be gone, but he won’t be forgotten.