Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday evening on a charge of felony invasion of privacy. But what does that mean, and how will it affect Missouri politics?
What is an indictment?
An indictment is a legal process where a grand jury decides that the attorney prosecuting a case has enough evidence to begin basic criminal proceedings.
It’s the first step in a long process. Later, Greitens will be informed of his charges in a process called arraignment, then given a chance to plea - but for now, he has just been booked by the police and sent home.
What does Greitens stand accused of?
The indictment alleges that Greitens photographed a woman in a state of undress without her knowledge or consent, when she may have been expected to have privacy, then stored that image using a computer or other digital device.
Why is it so important that he may have used a digital device?
In Missouri, the crime of invasion of privacy starts out as a misdemeanor, but if these images are stored or distributed digitally it becomes a much more serious charge—a felony—because that image can then be used to embarrass, attack or harass a victim. Some people refer to this as “revenge porn.”
So does this mean Gov. Greitens is out of a job?
Not necessarily. The indictment process is unrelated to Greitens’ job as governor of Missouri. However, as court proceedings move forward, they could become increasingly inconvenient or embarrassing. So far, he has opted not to resign, and in a statement earlier this evening, he said he has no plans to.
A number of Missouri legislators have signaled they plan to begin to move toward impeachment, which would force Greitens to leave office, but that, too, is a long road.