By Chuck Raasch
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, under felony indictment, has resigned his position on the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association.
The announcement Friday came as Greitens told the group that he would not be attending the separate National Governors Association's annual winter meeting this weekend here.
Greitens was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly transmitting a non-consensual photo of a partly nude lover. The governor, in a written statement, called the indictment a "misguided political decision" by a "reckless liberal prosecutor." St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is a Democrat.
Republican Governors Association Executive Director Paul Bennecke released a statement saying that Greitens "informed us last night that he is going to remain in Missouri this weekend to fight back against what his team has called a baseless charge."
The statement continued: "Given his desire to focus his full attention on moving forward in Missouri, he also no longer intends to serve on the executive committee of the RGA. We look forward to a quick resolution of this issue. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gov. Greitens and his family."
Greitens was expected to participate in sessions on homeland security at the Pentagon, and on veterans issues during the National Governors Association meeting.
A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens and a warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter saw Greitens with sheriff's deputies in the hallway of the Carnahan Courthouse about 3:45 p.m. Officials later confirmed that Greitens had been taken into custody and booked at the St. Louis Justice Center.
Sheriff Vernon Betts confirmed that Greitens was never handcuffed.
"We weren't going to treat him like a common criminal," Betts said Friday.
Greitens was released on a personal recognizance bond with a provision allowing him to travel freely in the United States.
After Greitens was led away, the courtroom doors were locked. Greitens' lawyers left the building around 5:30 p.m., around the time an SUV with blacked-out windows left from a loading dock in the back of the courthouse.
Gardner, in a statement announcing the indictment, said the grand jury found probable cause to believe Greitens violated a Missouri statute that makes it a felony to transmit a non-consensual image showing nudity in a manner that allows access to that image via a computer.
The woman Greitens had an affair with in 2015 has not spoken publicly. Her husband recorded a conversation with her. In it, the woman said that Greitens took a photo of her without her consent during a consensual sexual encounter in Greitens' St. Louis home in which she was bound and partly nude. She said in the recording that he threatened to release the photo if she mentioned his name.
Greitens' attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charge Thursday. The next court date for Greitens is March 16.
The Republican Governors Association site Friday morning had a post lauding Greitens' tax-cut plans in Missouri.
The Missouri Republican Party issued a statement on social media Friday calling the indictment a "political hit job" and citing donations Gardner received from "George Soros groups."
Soros is a New York billionaire who supports progressive causes.
"This law has never been prosecuted in this way and it is safe to say if Eric Greitens wasn't governor, it wouldn't have been this time either," the post said, quoting Sam Cooper, executive director of the state party.
In a statement late Thursday night in response to statements from Greitens and his lawyers attacking the indictment, Gardner spokeswoman Susan Ryan said Greitens' lawyers contacted the circuit attorney's office Thursday to arrange "a 'secret' meeting next week."
"The Circuit Attorney asked if the Governor would be making a statement that is any different from his public statements," the statement said. "His lawyers said they wanted to share the 'human' side of the story.
"The Circuit Attorney makes charging decisions based upon facts and evidence. Without additional facts and information from the Governor, the meeting was not necessary," the statement said.
(Joel Currier and Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.)
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