ST. LOUIS • Gov. Eric Greitens, who has been in a public court fight against a felony invasion of privacy charge for nearly two months, now faces a new felony charge: that he misused a charity donor list to solicit campaign cash for his 2016 run for governor.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner charged Greitens, 44, with felony computer tampering relating to a list of donors to his St. Louis-based charity The Mission Continues, which Greitens founded in 2007 and left in 2014.
The new charge relies at least in part on evidence shared with her office by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, who announced Tuesday that his office had uncovered evidence Greitens misused the list to help fund his 2016 campaign. It also adds to a minefield of problems for a defiant governor struggling to save his job and political future.
In a statement published on Facebook on Friday, Greitens criticized Gardner. “Her original 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.”
“When I have my day in court, I will clear my name,” Greitens said.
Greitens has refused calls to resign that accelerated after a Missouri House committee released an extraordinary report containing allegations of violence and sexual misconduct against Greitens.
Now the House is considering a special session that may lead to impeachment. The new charge will give lawmakers more material to weigh as they decide how to proceed on that front.
The complaint lists two felony counts. Gardner’s spokeswoman said prosecutors filed one felony count “in the alternative” to the other. That means a jury, if the case goes to trial, would decide whether Greitens is guilty or not guilty of the first count that applies to unauthorized disclosure of the donor list; or the second count that applies to unauthorized use of the list.
After a day of rumors about a charge, it was finally filed about 5:30 p.m., after prosecutors were seen hurrying to and from the warrant office.
Greitens was charged by complaint, not indicted by a grand jury. He was issued a summons, meaning he did not have to surrender himself, as he did when he was indicted in February on the invasion of privacy charge.
Greitens’ lawyers, who have called Hawley’s announcement on Tuesday “frivolous” and “inappropriate,” could not be immediately reached for comment on the new charge.
Gardner said in a release announcing the new charge that it was essential that residents “know that the Office of the Circuit Attorney will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city. Both parties and the people of St. Louis deserve a thorough investigation of these allegations.”
The donor list
Hawley announced an investigation last month after the Post-Dispatch reported that one of Greitens’ employees, and a former employee of The Mission Continues, sent the donor list to Greitens’ campaign staffers in January 2015. His office has subsequently said he launched the investigation because the report indicated potentially illegal coordination between the charity and the campaign, something the charity has denied.
Hawley said on March 23 that he had subpoenaed 15 current or former staffers of The Mission Continues. The attorney general’s office also subpoenaed Greitens through the Greitens Group, the company Greitens established to coordinate his book sales, Hawley announced recently.
According to a probable cause statement, investigator Anthony Box said Greitens, “acting with others, took and used data specifically owned by the Mission Continues for the purpose of soliciting funds for his political campaign.”
Greitens, on April 22, 2015, told someone with the initials K.T. to disclose data, specifically a donor list owned by The Mission Continues, to a political fundraiser working on behalf of Greitens for Missouri, charging documents say. The governor and K.T. disclosed the donor list “for the purpose of obtaining property of” $500 or more.
Greitens directed this disclosure, the charges say. Neither Greitens nor “K.T.” had permission from the Mission Continues to disclose the donor list to the fundraiser for political gain, the charges say. The charity’s handbook and nondisclosure agreements prohibited the list from being disclosed, or retained by anyone not employed by the Mission Continues.
The governor and K.T. knew the list was taken without the charity’s permission, and Greitens knew K.T. retained or used it without consent. Greitens told K.T. to send the list in April 22, 2015, email to the fundraiser, court records say.
At the time, the list “resided and existed internal to a computer or computer system used by K.T.” for the purpose of conducting business on behalf of The Greitens Group and/or Greitens for Missouri, as well as a computer or computer system belonging to the Mission Continues.
The Post-Dispatch reported in February that Krystal Taylor, one of Greitens’ employees at The Greitens Group, emailed the donor list to two of Greitens’ campaign staffers, Danny Laub and Michael Hafner, on Jan. 6, 2015. Taylor’s LinkedIn profile in February also showed she used to work at The Mission Continues.
Beyond possible coordination between the campaign and the charity, the revelation was significant because the Greitens campaign had previously said that Laub donated the list to the campaign himself on March 1, 2015.
Little reactionfrom lawmakers
The new charge is expected to bring renewed calls in the House and Senate for the governor to resign or be impeached.
The Missouri House committee investigating Greitens is already looking at the fundraising issue and could release a report on that subject to lawmakers as early as next week as the Legislature’s lower chamber works to determine whether the governor should face impeachment.
The chairman of the investigative panel, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, had no comment Friday night.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, who is collecting signatures from House members to determine whether a special session on impeachment should begin when the regular session ends May 18, was not expected to issue a statement Friday, a spokesman said.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, in a statement called for immediate impeachment. “This is far too important to delay to special session a month or more from now,” she said.
Greitens is scheduled to attend a Texas County Republican Party function in Licking on Saturday.
Hawley, who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., this year, called on Greitens to resign last week after the House committee report’s release.
On Monday, defense attorney Ed Dowd asked Hawley to recuse himself from investigating Greitens, saying in a news release that the attorney general’s statement “compromises the AGO’s own ongoing investigation of Gov. Greitens.”
Hawley refused. His office said Hawley was reacting to allegations of “egregious sexual misconduct,” adding that “the attorney general’s investigation into The Mission Continues does not address those allegations.”
Hawley is the front-runner for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate this year, and would take on McCaskill, widely considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats in the country. State and national Democrats have been hammering at Hawley in an attempt to soften up the threat he could pose in November.
Jack Suntrup and Kurt Erickson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.