By Jim Ellis
Feb. 26, 2018 — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on one count of felony invasion of privacy late last week. The photograph of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an affair is the subject of the felony charge. Though the extramarital affair was consensual, being photographed in a compromising position was not, hence the invasion of privacy indictment. Transmitting the photo through use of a computer makes the charge a Class E felony under Missouri law, which could mean a prison sentence of up to four years.While the legal situation will be left to the courts to adjudicate, the political aftermath merits discussion. Though Gov. Greitens claims he will fight the charge, more often than not these situations end in reaching a legal agreement. In cases involving office holders, resigning from office is always part of any plea agreement. This was certainly the case for then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in Alabama, when he agreed to resign when the charges against him were reduced to misdemeanor campaign violations. Upon news of the indictment, Republican state legislative leaders said that they would assign a committee to investigate the charge, which opens the door to potential impeachment proceedings.
Should the governor reach a plea bargain, or be found guilty and thus forced to resign his position, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would ascend to the governorship. As a Republican, Parson’s becoming governor would not result in a change of party leadership. Because Gov. Greitens was just elected in 2016, Parson, should he succeed a resigned or impeached state chief executive, would serve in the state’s top position through 2020 and be eligible to run in his own right in the ’20 election.