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Our Opinion: End of administration shouldn't be end of Greitens investigations

Our Opinion: End of administration shouldn't be end of Greitens investigations

June 5th, 2018 by News Tribune in Opinion

We're dismayed as to why St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner would drop the felony computer tampering charge against former Gov. Eric Greitens in return for his agreement to resign.

We're not trying to beat a dead horse. Nor do we want to delay our state's healing process over Greitens' short and scandalous term as governor. But if charges and investigations against Greitens are completed — rather than dropped — Missourians will see a resolution and see justice being served. That, we believe, will lead to more trust in the judicial system, more closure and, ultimately, faster healing.

The Associated Press reported former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Wolff said the agreement between Greitens' attorneys and Gardner's office is highly unusual because it protects Gardner and her staff from being sued for their actions and because Greitens did not have to plead guilty to any lesser charge.

"Here's a guy who gets to get out of a felony charge just by agreeing to quit his job," Wolff said. "Most people don't get this deal."

Gardner, whose office already has invested $65,000 in the cases against Greitens, said she had the evidence to pursue the charges. Her only explanation for making the deal to drop the charge was that "sometimes, pursuing charges is not the right or just thing to do for our city or state," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

We believe the question of whether charges should be pursued should be based on the evidence, not whether he resigns as governor.

In the same vein, we question why Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson hasn't explained his decision not to prosecute Greitens on a Class A misdemeanor of falsifying campaign finance reports.

Attorney General Josh Hawley investigated Greitens and believed the charge was warranted. He forwarded information to Richardson, who decided not to file a charge. As we reported, Richardson didn't say why not and declined to comment further.

Prosecutors have the discretion as to whether they file charges, and they're not required to explain themselves.

But in a case this prominent, not offering an explanation only breeds distrust of the legal system. In fact, it already has, as Richardson's ties to Greitens have been questioned.

The Attorney General's Office, meanwhile, continues to believe that there was probable cause for the charge to be filed.

The special House committee investigating alleged wrongdoing by Greitens abruptly cancelled three meetings last week after Greitens announced he would resign. It's unknown at this point what the committee's role will be now.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway said Greitens' resignation came hours before a court-ordered deadline for him to reveal details of his dark money operations. If Greitens is not required to turn over the information now, that could "deprive Missourians of the right to know how dark money and special interests are secretly influencing their government.

"In order to restore public trust, the legislature must continue to its work into the investigation of coordination between dark-money organizations and state entities," Galloway said in a news release.

We agree. The first step is for the committee to finish its work and issues a report to the public. Their work may provide the most complete account for Missourians, and for history, as to exactly what Greitens did or did not do.