The single criminal charge a St. Louis City grand jury filed against Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday has some politicians calling for his impeachment — setting up two different paths that both could lead to his being forced from office.
The criminal and impeachment procedures don't rely on each other to occur because they are different under Missouri's Constitution and statutes.
In 1994, the Missouri House did not impeach then-Secretary of State Judi Moriarty until after she'd been found guilty in the Cole County Circuit Court.
However, nothing prevents the House from considering impeachment at the same time a criminal case is happening in the courts.
And neither the Constitution, nor statutes, prohibit the House from considering impeachment, even if the criminal charge goes away.
Since the criminal and impeachment procedures are different, this story explains them separately.
The barely two-page St. Louis grand jury indictment accuses Greitens of first-degree invasion of privacy for an incident in March 2015 — before he had announced his candidacy for governor — involving a woman who reportedly was his hairdresser.
The crime, on Missouri's law books since 1995, is a Class D felony that — if there's a conviction — carries a maximum prison sentence of four years.
As with all criminal cases, the prosecutor must convince a jury — or a judge, if the defendant waives a jury trial — that there is enough evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt" to convict the person charged with the crime.
Greitens is accused of taking a photograph of the woman without her knowledge or consent then later transferring the picture "in a manner that allowed" access to the picture by a computer.
In a statement released Thursday evening, the governor, a Republican, again denied committing any crime, although he again admitted to making "a personal mistake before I was governor" — the affair with a woman identified in the indictment only as "K.S."
He called the grand jury's indictment a "disappointing and misguided political decision" and accused St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, of being "a reckless liberal prosecutor who uses her office to score political points."
Grand juries are authorized by state law, in Chapter 540, and are created by "order of the presiding judge of the circuit court, or a judge designated by the presiding judge."
Grand jurors are "randomly selected from the master jury list" in the county, using the same procedures the county uses for selecting those jurors who serve during civil or criminal trials.
The law says a grand jury serves for no more than six months — with a possible extension up to 60 more days, "solely for the purpose of considering and completing matters already before the grand jury."
And they have a broad charge under the law: "A grand jury may make inquiry into and return indictments for all grades of crimes and shall make inquiry into all possible violations of the criminal laws as the court may direct."
The law gives the prosecuting attorney — and the circuit attorney in St. Louis City — the right "at all times to appear before the grand jury" whenever he or she requests it, "for the purpose of giving information relative to any matter."
The prosecutor "shall be permitted to interrogate witnesses" before the grand jury, whenever the grand jurors or the prosecutor "shall deem it necessary."
The prosecutor also has a legal duty to give the grand jury his/her legal advice whenever the grand jury asks for it.
However, when it's time for the grand jurors to discuss a case and decide whether they should file an indictment, no one else can be in the room.
State law requires grand jury proceedings to be secret.
No one involved in the process — including the grand jurors, the prosecutor and the witnesses — is allowed to discuss what was covered inside the grand jury room or the questions that were asked.
And, unlike an open court hearing, the people being investigated don't get a chance to ask questions that challenge the testimony of the witnesses called by the grand jury.
They don't get that chance until the trial, which is in open court.
Various news reports since the governor's affair first was made public Jan. 10 said the woman involved in the affair didn't want to talk about what happened.
The allegations reported in those stories generally came from her then-husband, who had recorded (without her knowledge) their conversations about what happened in the basement of Greitens' St. Louis home.
However, state law authorizes grand juries to use subpoenas, issued by the circuit clerk, to call in witnesses to testify — and the law says those witnesses must testify or face contempt of court charges.
In the Greitens case, the St. Louis grand jury's indictment indicates three people — identified only by their initials — were the grand jury's witnesses.
One of those witnesses was listed as "K.S.," the same initials used to identify the victim.
To get an indictment, state law requires at least nine of the 12 grand jury members to agree that a charge should be filed.
Once issued, an indictment is filed in the circuit court in the same manner as any other charge.
In the Greitens case, the governor was arrested on the charge Thursday, booked and released on his own recognizance.
The docket entry says he's "allowed to travel freely throughout the United States."
Circuit Judge Rex Burlison scheduled a "counsel status hearing" for 9 a.m. March 16.
At that hearing, the circuit attorney's office and the governor's lawyers will discuss what work they need to do before they can schedule any trial, including trading information under the discovery process and taking witnesses' depositions.
Last week, Greitens' attorneys filed a 10-page motion and memorandum asking the judge to dismiss the indictment.
However, as of Friday evening, no action had been taken on that motion, according to Case.net, the state court system's online docket reporting program.
Almost as soon as the indictment was publicized late Thursday afternoon, some politicians and others called for the governor to be impeached.
The dictionary defines "impeach" as "to bring an accusation against" or "to charge with a crime or misdemeanor; specifically to charge (a public official) with misconduct in office."
A note about our coverage of Greitens' indictmentRead more
Missouri's Constitution says: "All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office."
The Constitution gives the "House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment."
However, an impeachment only is a charge and, just as in the court system, someone must convict the person of that charge.
Under Missouri's Constitution, "Judgment of impeachment shall not extend beyond removal from office, but shall not prevent punishment of such officer by the courts on charges growing out of the same matter."
Early Thursday evening, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, issued a joint statement with Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and Floor Leader Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold.
They announced: "We will carefully examine the facts contained in the indictment and answer the question as to whether or not the governor can lead our state while a felony case moves forward. The people of Missouri deserve no less. We will begin the process of tasking a group of legislators to investigate these serious charges."
They did not appoint anyone to that committee yet.
Based on information provided by the House Communications office, the process would include:
A House member would file a resolution calling for an investigation — not for impeachment.
The speaker then would refer the resolution to a committee — either an existing committee or a special one created specifically to handle the investigation.
The committee would make its investigation and, if good cause is found, could draft articles of impeachment to be reported to the House.
If impeachment was recommended, the House would treat the articles as a bill, requiring a first reading and second reading before there could be floor debate and a vote.
Adoption of any articles of impeachment would require a constitutional majority of the House — at least 82 votes.
If the House approves the impeachment charge(s), for most officials the case would be sent to the seven-judge Supreme Court to hear the evidence and decide whether the case was strong enough for a conviction.
However, the Constitution says, whenever the official being impeached is the governor or a member of the Supreme Court, the trial shall be held "by a special commission of seven eminent jurists to be elected by the (state) Senate."
And conviction occurs only with at least five of those seven jurists agreeing.