We are not disappointed that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dropped the felony invasion of privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
That might surprise regular readers of this editorial page. We haven’t hid our disdain for the governor. We have been steadfast in our call for his resignation in the wake of admitted personal lapses of judgment and allegations of criminal misconduct involving his campaign for governor.
But there is another matter we are equally resolute about and that is everyone deserves to be treated fairly in a court of law. In this case, Greitens wasn’t treated fairly.
As the criminal case against Greitens proceeded, it became unsettlingly clear that Greitens should have never been charged with a felony in the first place. The case went awry shortly after it was filed.
The state alleged that Greitens, a Republican, took a semi-nude photo of a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her with it. In order to make the felony charge, the state had to prove Greitens took the photo and transmitted it.
Gardner eventually acknowledged the state didn’t possess the photo — the key evidence. Therefore, the state’s case was based purely on circumstantial evidence. She ultimately dismissed the case after the judge agreed Greitens’ lawyers could call her as a witness for her role in prosecuting the case.
To say that Gardner, a Democrat, mishandled the case is being charitable. The purported victim in the case never pushed for prosecution and was always a reluctant participant in the trial.
One would expect a great deal of care in bringing a criminal charge against a sitting governor. That care was glaringly absent in this case.
Gardner’s actions smacked of politics, not someone nobly pursuing justice. She needlessly wasted tens of thousands of dollars on outside investigators and special prosecutors who helped her bungle the case.
The prosecutorial incoherence in this case was mind-boggling and profoundly disappointing. Gardner revealed herself as a rank amateur in the biggest case of her career.
Everyone deserves a fair shake from our justice system, even those we may dislike for political or personal reasons. Why should we care? If a governor can be targeted by an overzealous, politically motivated prosecutor looking to enhance her resume, then anyone can.
The governor may be a creep but it’s clear the only reason he was charged in this case was because of politics. We doubt if the average citizen in the same situation would have been similarly charged or faced the same zealous prosecution.
Make no mistake, Greitens isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to potential criminal liability on a myriad of other alleged campaign violations.
The outcome of this case doesn’t change our belief that he should step down for the good of his family, party and the state. But we contend he was treated unfairly in this case.