The resignation of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is little surprise given the myriad of criminal charges brought against him for sexual misconduct and campaign violations. This resignation comes after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dismissed a felony charge accusing Greitens for allegedly tampering with computer data involving the donor list of a veterans’ charity he founded. What stood out in the agreement with Gardner was a condition that I have always found problematic and should be barred under state law: a promise not to sue Gardner or her office. Greitens offered to resign as a condition for the settlement.
Greitens indicated that his legal fees were over $2 million and that he could not afford to go to trial on the charges. Gardner insisted that she remained “confident we have the evidence required to pursue charges against Mr. Greitens, but sometimes pursuing charges is not the right thing to do for our city or our state.”
The final seven stipulations in the agreement include two sealed stipulations. I also have concerns over conditions being removed from the public scrutiny in a case involving their governor.
However, I am most concerned about the condition that Greitens release Gardner and her office from civil liability. In my view, these conditions should be viewed as improper from a public policy standpoint. In negotiating an agreement with an alleged felon, Gardner should not be adding conditions to benefit herself or her office. Likewise, it should be treated as improper to force a defendant to negotiate protections for the prosecutors as a condition for his having charges dropped.
As part of the agreement, including the protection for Gardner herself, Greitens was not expected to plead guilty to a single count.
Greitens could still face the refiling of charged dropped last month of his alleged invasion-of-privacy in February in St. Louis. The Missouri House of Representatives also investigated the allegations involving a former hair stylist of Greitens who had an affair with him before he became governor. She accused him of assault, including spanking her and forcing oral sex as well as blackmail involving revealing pictures.
As Missouri looks at this scandal for possible reforms, it would be wise to consider a ban on prosecutors negotiating for their own immunity or protection from lawsuit. If there are grounds for such lawsuits, it is in the public’s interest to have those allegations adjudicated.