Outgoing Missouri Governor Signs 'revenge Porn' Law

Jun 1, 2018

Hours before he was to leave office, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Friday signed into law a measure that makes it a crime to try to blackmail a person using a private sexual image — the same allegation that led to his downfall.

The new "revenge porn" law makes it a felony to threaten the nonconsensual dissemination of such an image by coercing another person to refrain from an action.

The governor has been accused of taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an affair in 2015 and warning her he would distribute it if she ever spoke of their encounter.

He has acknowledged having the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing and refused to directly answer questions about whether he took the photo.

Greitens cannot be charged under the law because it was not in effect at the time. But a special prosecutor still is weighing whether to refile an invasion-of-privacy charge against Greitens under a different law.

The scandal-plagued governor was to formally step down at 5 p.m. to be replaced by Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, who was to be sworn in shortly thereafter in a low-key ceremony in the governor's office.

Greitens was leaving with a flurry of activity — signing 77 bills into law while his campaign attorney filed last-minute court papers opposing the disclosure of documents and movers loaded his personal belongings onto a truck at the governor's mansion.

In a news releasing announcing the bill signings, Greitens touted other bills he signed, such as a corporate income tax cut and changes to the state foster care system.

His resignation is part of a deal with a St. Louis prosecutor to drop a felony charge alleging misuse of a charity donor list to raise money for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. His voluntary departure also avoids the potentially dubious distinction of becoming the first Missouri governor to be impeached by the House.

Parson said he wants to assure people "that everything's fine and government is going to go forward."

His job now, he told St. Louis radio station KMOX, is to "work hard and make sure I'm prepared and do the best I can to make this transfer of power as smooth as possible."

Though he's leaving, Greitens isn't entirely clear of legal problems.

The Missouri Ethics Commission continues to investigate a complaint that Greitens' campaign filed false documents about the charity donor list. The FBI also has received information about Greitens from the chairman of a House investigatory panel and a private attorney representing the ex-husband of the woman with whom he had an affair.

On Friday, an attorney for Greitens' campaign and a pro-Greitens nonprofit called A New Missouri asked a judge to delay and reverse his previous order to turn over records to a House committee.

Lawyer Catherine Hanaway argued that the panel created to investigate allegations against the governor no longer has authority because Greitens is leaving office. But the House has said it still wants to enforce subpoenas for records related to potential coordination between Greitens, his campaign committee and the nonprofit organization.

In a separate case, the judge ordered Greitens to supply by Friday the names of all governor's office employees who downloaded a smartphone app called Confide that automatically deletes messages. The order also directs Greitens to provide phone numbers and other details about the devices, which would allow the plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging violations of the state records-retention law to request information from Confide.

As Greitens prepared to leave office, his wife, Sheena Greitens, posted photos of the mansion and Capitol on Twitter alongside a message saying "it has been an honor & privilege to serve as First Lady."

The 44-year-old Greitens is a former Navy SEAL officer who won election in 2016 as a political outsider pledging to take on "career politicians" and crack down on perceived corruption in Jefferson City.

Parson, 62, who was elected separately from Greitens, is an Army veteran who built a career as a law officer and lawmaker. He spent 12 years as the rural Polk County sheriff before serving another dozen years in the Missouri House and Senate. He is also a cattle farmer and was moving his animals when he got the call Tuesday that Greitens was resigning.

"In my career, I've had the opportunities to handle tough situations," Parson said. "At least I have the experience to draw on and frankly the wisdom to draw on."

Parson kept a low profile as scandals grew around the governor following the January revelation that Greitens had engaged in an affair in which a woman alleged he restrained, slapped, shoved and belittled her.

As the governor denied any violence, Parson shied away from joining some other top Republicans who called on Greitens to resign. Instead, Parson emphasized the need for unity.

He will serve the remainder of Greitens' term, which runs until January 2021.