STLtoday.com: Woman testifies that Greitens groped and hit her; governor blasts ‘lies’ and ‘tabloid trash’

JEFFERSON CITY • During several sexual encounters with his hair stylist the year before he was elected Missouri’s governor, Eric Greitens struck her in the face, touched her crotch without her consent and called her a “whore,” the woman told a Missouri House committee, according to newly released documents.

The claims add disturbing new layers to the single criminal allegation Greitens faces — a felony invasion-of-privacy charge, for allegedly taking and transmitting a semi-nude photo of her without her consent.

In sworn testimony made March 7, the woman stood by that allegation, as presented in the House reportreleased Wednesday afternoon. She also painted a broader picture of Greitens as a controlling, jealous lover for whom violence or the threat of it was an integral part of the affair.

Minutes before the report was issued, Greitens denounced the investigation as a “political witch hunt,” using the term five times in about eight minutes. He referred to “lies and falsehoods,” though he didn’t specify which parts of the report he claims are false.

In a statement issued later Wednesday by the lobbying firm Greitens has hired to assist his defense, he again said the relationship was consensual.

“The accusations published in the House Committee’s report will be directly contradicted by the facts that emerge in court. In just 33 days, a court of law and a jury of my peers will let every person in Missouri know the truth and prove my innocence,” his statement said. 

House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican like Greitens, said he would seek a special session of the Legislature to consider action against the governor — action that may include impeachment.

“The testimony outlined in the report is beyond disturbing,” Richardson said. “The power given to the Missouri General Assembly to take disciplinary action or to remove elected officials from office is one of the most serious and consequential powers the Constitution grants the Legislature.”

He said the committee would not seek to start impeachment proceedings during the current legislative session, which ends May 18.

Attorney General Josh Hawley, another Republican who is conducting a separate investigation of the veterans’ charity Greitens founded, called on the governor to resign.

“The House Investigative Committee’s Report contains shocking, substantial, and corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by Governor Greitens,” Hawley said in a statement. “The conduct the Report details is certainly impeachable, in my judgment, and the House is well within its rights to proceed on that front. But the people of Missouri should not be put through that ordeal. Governor Greitens should resign immediately.”

During one encounter in the summer of 2015, the woman testified to the House committee, Greitens struck her and shoved her to the ground as they became intimate in his Central West End home.

“And I instantly just started bawling and was just like, ‘What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you?’ ” she told the committee. “And I just laid there crying while he was just like … ‘You’re fine, you’re fine.’ ”

During another encounter, she alleges, he physically restrained her from leaving his home and insisted she give him oral sex, even though she was crying.

Those were among multiple new allegations contained in a 24-page report by the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, which the Missouri House voted unanimously to form on March 1 after a St. Louis grand jury handed up the felony invasion-of-privacy charge against Greitens.

The invasion-of-privacy criminal charge, which is a separate process, followed the revelation in the media in January that Greitens had engaged in an extramarital affair in 2015. Greitens at that time admitted to the affair but denied allegations that he took a non-consensual photograph of the woman and threatened to release it if she ever spoke of their affair.

While she was bound and blindfolded during that encounter, she told the committee, Greitens ripped open the T-shirt he’d had her put on and pulled down her pants. She said she then heard noise of a cellphone, “like a picture, and I can see the flash through the blindfold.”

“(H)e says, ‘You’re not going to mention my name,’ ” she said. “ ‘Don’t even mention my name to anybody at all, because if you do, I’m going to take these pictures, and I’m going to put them everywhere, and then everyone will know what a little whore you are.’ ”

When she first came to Greitens’ Central West End home, the former Navy SEAL “shushed” her, went through her purse and patted her down, “I guess to see if I was wearing a wire. … I’m like, oh my gosh, I guess this is a Navy SEAL thing.”

After snapping the photo, threatening her with exposure and calling her a whore, Greitens “came up close to me and said ‘Are you going to say anything? Are you going to mention my name?’ … I just didn’t answer at all, and then he spanked me and said, ‘Are you going to mention my name?’ And I … just gritted through my teeth and said, ‘no.’ ”

After the incident with the photo, she said, she tried to leave the basement, “bawling my eyes out.” Greitens pulled her to the floor in what she described as “bear hug,” trying to calm her down but also continuing to fondle her. “He starts undoing his pants, and he takes his penis out and puts it, like, near where my face is. … (H)e’s not going to let me leave, because he’s obviously still horny. So I gave him oral sex at this point.”

During a later sexual encounter in Greitens’ bedroom, he asked her if she had slept with anyone in the time since they’d started seeing each other. “I said, ‘Well, I slept with my husband’ … and he slapped me across the face … (and) said, ‘What do you mean you slept with your husband? You are not supposed to be sleeping with him.’ “ She said the open-handed slap was hard enough that it “swung my face.”

When the woman confessed to her husband about the affair, his immediate reaction, she said, was, “I’m going to get this guy one day. I’m going to get him.” Two years later, it was the husband, by then divorced from her, who would bring the allegations to light by leaking to the media an audio tape in which she talks about the affair.

Greitens, who took no questions from reporters in his response to the report Wednesday, called the affair at the center of the allegations “a personal mistake.”

“This was a private mistake that has nothing to do with governing,” he said. “The people driving this story are part of an absurd political witch hunt.”

“The people of Missouri see through this,” he said. “And they know better than to trust one-sided tabloid trash gossip that was produced in a secret report.”

The report and reaction

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, who would become governor if Greitens leaves office before his term ends, issued a statement calling for unity.

“With the recent events that have distracted our great state, I want to say with all sincerity that it is time to unite and put aside our differences,” said Parson, also a Republican. He added: “My heart goes out to the families involved.”

Meanwhile, Democratic members of the House committee investigating Greitens said they would continue their work despite the governor’s attacks.

“Our committee remains dedicated to its task and will not be deterred by Eric Greitens’ baseless attacks on our witnesses, our integrity or our common sense,” the statement reads. “We remain sympathetic to the victim and the governor’s family for what they are being forced to endure as a result of the governor’s actions and choices.”

Greitens has governed under a cloud since the revelation in January of the affair, with several members of his own party calling for him to resign.

The revelations also attracted attention to other matters that Greitens may have to address, including potentially illegal use of assets from his former charity, The Mission Continues, and his use of untraceable political donations to further his career. Transcripts of the committee’s discussions indicate that members are continuing to investigate those issues and will release more about them in a later report.

The report hides the name of the woman with whom Greitens had the affair, who is designated “Witness 1.” The Post-Dispatch hasn’t publicly named her because she may be the victim of a sexually related crime and hasn’t agreed to be interviewed.

Notably, the committee members — who would be among those determining Greitens’ political future should he face impeachment — conclude in the report that the woman is a “credible witness.” The report also concludes that her account is corroborated by three other witnesses before the committee: her ex-husband and two friends to whom she talked about her encounters with Greitens.

Greitens was invited to testify before the committee. His legal team told the committee that the governor would not testify “at this point in time.”

“The Committee notes that Greitens has the constitutional right to so decline,” the report states. “To the extent this report does not include Greitens’ perspective, that is the result of his choice not to participate.”

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said the committee findings were “embarrassing.”

“It’s horrific. There was no holding back in that report. Very sexual in nature. I just feel bad about it,” Nasheed told the Post-Dispatch. “If he doesn’t step down, the impeachment process should start immediately.”

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said that “on a personal level, I continue to be disappointed in the governor,” she said. “And it goes beyond disappointment. This is not a man worthy of the job of governor of this state.”

After the report’s release Wednesday, multiple rank-and-file Republican lawmakers declined to comment, while a few others repeated earlier calls for his resignation or impeachment. Republicans hold vast majorities in both the House and the Senate, and Greitens cannot be impeached without many Republican votes to do so.

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said the Legislature should move quickly to remove the governor.

“It is clear to me that this governor must resign and if he fails to do so, I believe we should begin impeachment proceedings,” McCann Beatty said. “We still have five weeks to do the work that we are here to do, and this is probably the most important thing that we could do at this point.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., joined the calls for resignation. “It is clearly time to put the interests of the people of Missouri first,” she said in a written statement. “The governor should resign.”

Her fellow Missouri senator, Republican Roy Blunt, took a less strident stance. “The allegations in the report are very concerning,” he said in an emailed statement late Wednesday. “As I said previously, both the legislative and legal processes that are underway are appropriate and should continue moving forward.” 

‘This perfect guy’

The woman’s account of her months-long, tumultuous affair with Greitens includes both salacious and pedestrian details of what started as mild flirtation between a hairdresser and her already quasi-famous client.

The woman testified that she met Greitens in 2013, when he was already a bestselling author and the subject of speculation about a future political career. “We got to know each other pretty well, and I thought he was great,” she told the committee. “I thought he was this perfect guy.”

Upon his first appointment after a long absence, she said, “I was super nervous because he was one of — you know, really, my only client that I had somewhat of a crush on.”

During that appointment, on March 7, 2015, the woman said, Greitens moved his hand up her leg while they were talking.

“At first I just ignored it … and then he, like, moved his hand all the way up to my crotch, at which point I stepped back and was like, ‘What are you doing?’ ”

She testified that she continued communicating with him after that because she was separated from her husband, wasn’t sure of the state of his marriage and was “at least curious” about the possibility of a relationship. She suggested meeting publicly for coffee, but he responded that “I cannot be seen in public with you. I’m running for office. People are going to be out to get me, they cannot see me with you,” according to the report.

The woman went to Greitens’ Central West End home, through the back door, on the morning of March 21. That is when Greitens shushed her, patted her down and searched her purse, she said.

She said she wanted to talk about their relationship, but Greitens said the two “don’t have a whole lot of time,” she said, recalling Greitens’ statements. “Have you exercised today?”

“It was like he was on a mission, sort of,” she told the committee. She went ahead and agreed to a workout. She said she walked into a bathroom and changed into clothes Greitens had laid out — a white T-shirt with a slit at the top, and pajama pants. He said he would show her how to do a “proper pull-up.”

“I thought this was going to be some sort of, like, sexy workout,” she said.

She told the committee he taped her hands to pull-up rings with “this gauzed tape stuff” and blindfolded her.

“[H]e kind of had this controlling sort of — again, it was almost as if he had a — like we were on a movie set. … [H]e was in a controlled state, which at this point was intriguing to me.”

She then said he spit water into her mouth, “at which point I realized he’s trying to kiss me, but I don’t even want to kiss him … So I just spit it out.”

Robert Patrick and Sky Chadde of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this story.

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