JEFFERSON CITY — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner says she will investigate allegations of blackmail raised against Gov. Eric Greitens, who admitted Wednesday night to cheating on his wife but denied claims that he threatened another woman.
“The serious allegations against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens are very troubling. After further consideration, I have decided to launch a formal investigation into the alleged actions of Governor Greitens,” Gardner said in a statement.
Greitens’ attorney, James Bennett, expressed confidence that the governor would not be found guilty of any wrongdoing and reiterated that the affair took place almost three years ago.
“The Governor is very confident he will be cleared in any investigation,” Bennett said. “This is a three-year-old personal matter that presents no matters of public or legal interest. The facts will prove that fully. As we learned today, these false allegations are being advanced by political adversaries.”
KMOV, a St. Louis television station, first reported that Greitens was admitting to an affair Wednesday night, a report that almost completely overshadowed the second State of the State address the Republican governor delivered hours before.
KMOV’s report describes allegations that not only did Greitens have a sexual relationship with a woman in 2015, but he allegedly blindfolded her and photographed her in a state of undress before allegedly telling her “you’re never going to mention my name.” The report, which is based on a conversation the ex-husband apparently recorded without the woman’s knowledge, says that Greitens apologized and deleted the picture afterward.
Greitens, in statements made through Bennett, has admitted the affair but has denied the allegations of blackmail and the existence of the alleged photograph. Bennett released a statement Wednesday night saying in part that “the claim that this nearly three-year-old story has generated or should generate law enforcement interest is completely false.”
In the statement, Gardner encouraged anyone with information to contact her office and described her inquiry as a way to “hold public officials accountable.”
“It is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confidence in their leaders,” Gardner’s statement continued. “They must 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.”
Through a spokeswoman, Attorney General Josh Hawley deferred to the local prosecuting authority. He had been asked by lawmakers to investigate.
“Under Missouri law, jurisdiction over alleged criminal conduct of this nature rests with the Prosecuting Attorney in the place where the conduct occurred,” said Loree Anne Paradise, Hawley’s official spokeswoman. “If the Prosecuting Attorney has a legal conflict or lacks the resources to pursue an investigation, he or she may seek assistance from the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Attorney General’s Office.”
The allegations described in KMOV’s report, if true, would have taken place when Greitens was living in the jurisdiction of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in March 2015. A St. Louis police spokesperson told the News-Leader that “no one has contacted the police department” regarding the alleged incident.
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