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In deal to resign, Greitens admitted state had evidence in donor-list case

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks during a news conference after the end of the 2017 legislative session. Greitens used this opportunity to compare lawmakers to third graders for not passing enough bills.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens addresses reporters at the end of the 2017 legislative session.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. June 7 with comments from Greitens' attorney — Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted as part of a deal with St. Louis prosecutors that they had enough evidence to take him to trial over the use of a charity’s donor list for his campaign.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office on Wednesday released the full agreementthat led to Greitens stepping down last week. Two paragraphs of that deal had originally been redacted. St. Louis Public Radio and other news outlets had filed requests under Missouri’s open records law to see the complete document. Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office ruled on Tuesday that it was an open record.

The previously redacted portions do not change the basic deal: Greitens would resign from office, and in exchange, Gardner would drop a felony computer tampering charge over The Mission Continues donor list. But the sections are the closest Greitens has ever come to admitting wrongdoing.

In the first blacked-out portion, Greitens’ attorneys acknowledge that prosecutors “had sufficient evidence to constitute a submissible case.” The second blacked-out portion said that first paragraph would not be made public unless Greitens committed a new crime or “engage[d] in public comment contrary to the stipulation.”

One of those attorneys, Jack Garvey, said Gardner did not object to blacking out the two paragraphs in question when the deal was struck. He said the redaction was done for public relations purposes.

"The language is very precise," he said. "It says Greitens' attorneys believe there is a submissable case. But the public might think he was guilty of an offense. There's a big difference."

St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner announces on May 30, 2018, that her office will drop a felony computer-tampering charge against Gov. Eric Greitens.
Credit Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
The deal between Greitens and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, shown here on May 30, included an admission by the former governor that the state had enough evidence for a trial on computer-tampering charges.

Gardner’s office argued from the beginning that the full copy of the agreement should be a public record because it was not actually part of any official court file. When attorneys for Greitens objected, Gardner asked Hawley to weigh in.

“We have concluded that the Stipulation is an open record,” state Solicitor General John Sauer wrote in the opinion. Under state law, he said, any final settlement involving a government agency is public unless a court has acted to close it.

Even though the two sides had agreed to redact portions of the agreement, Sauer said, no court had officially sealed it. “And given the circumstances surrounding this matter,” he wrote, “it is unlikely that any interests would clearly outweigh the public’s strong interest in knowing the terms of the settlement agreement here.”

But Gardner’s office also believed they had the right to release the full document under the terms of the deal itself.

In announcing his resignation, Greitens blasted the “forces that opposed him” for causing incredible strain on his family and legal harassment of his colleagues and campaign workers.

“I know, and people of good faith know, that I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment,” he said.

Gardner felt that statement broke the agreement.

“Given your client’s blatant and material violation of the agreement,” she wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Greitens’ attorney Ed Dowd, “this office is no longer under any obligation under that agreement to maintain confidentiality of any provision of the agreement that your client previously sought.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.