Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, once considered a rising star in national Republican politics, was indicted and arrested Thursday on felony charges of invasion of privacy by a grand jury in St. Louis -- but his attorney says the GOP lawmaker is "absolutely innocent."
Interested in Republican Party?Add Republican Party as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Republican Party news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
The grand jury's indictment found that Greitens, 43, took full or partially nude photos of an individual and "subsequently transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer."
The photographs in question, taken in 2015, were of a woman Greitens has admitted to having an extra-marital affair with. But while Greitens has admitted to the affair, he has maintained that he did not attempt to blackmail the woman.
In a statement released Thursday, Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and Rhodes Scholar who had never held elected office prior to winning the Missouri governor's race in 2016, again defended his actions by saying he made a mistake but his conduct was not criminal.
"As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor. I did not commit a crime," he said. "With today’s disappointing and misguided political decision, my confidence in our prosecutorial system is shaken, but not broken. I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action. This will not for a moment deter me from doing the important work of the great people of Missouri."
Kimberly Gardner, the Circuit Attorney for the city of St. Louis tasked with investigating the allegations against Greitens, defended the grand jury's decision.
"As I have stated before, it is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confidence in their leaders," Gardner wrote in a statement Thursday, "They must know that the Office of the Circuit Attorney will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city. Both parties and the people of St. Louis deserve a thorough investigation of these allegations."
In the wake of revelations regarding Greitens affair he and his wife Sheena, whom he married in 2011, released a joint statement acknowledging that it took place, but that they are working together to move forward in their marriage.
"A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage, the couple said in a joint statement last month. "This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately ... We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive -- but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers."
An attorney for Greitens, Edward L. Dowd, Jr., blasted the indictment in a statement Thursday.
"For 40 years as an attorney for the public and for private litigants, I have never seen anything like this," Dowd Jr. said. "The charges are unfounded and baseless. The Governor is absolutely innocent. Not only is he presumed innocent -- he is innocent. This whole investigation is completely unusual."
Dowd Jr. continued, "This statute has never been used like this in Missouri history. In unprecedented fashion, the Circuit Attorney circumvented the local police force and hired her own investigators -- we attempted to meet with the Circuit Attorney and make the Governor available to discuss the issues. They refused. She proceeded to file an indictment that has no facts."
In response to attacks by Greitens and Dowd Jr., the Circuit Attorney's Office released a statement Thursday night.
"Despite the Governor’s personal attacks, the Circuit Attorney believes the courtroom is the appropriate place to argue the facts, not the media," the statement read. "Kim Gardner maintains her unwavering confidence in our system of justice to bring this matter to a fair and just resolution."
The statement continued, "The lawyers for Governor Greitens contacted the Circuit Attorney’s Office yesterday to meet for a 'secret' meeting next week of counsel only. The Circuit Attorney asked if the Governor would be making a statement that is any different from his public statements. His lawyers said they wanted to share the 'human' side of his story. The Circuit Attorney makes charging decisions based upon facts and evidence. Without additional facts and information from the Governor, the meeting was not necessary."
Greitens has resisted calls for his resignation since the news of his extra-martial affair broke last month, and Republicans in the state still hold wide majorities in both the state senate and state house.
In a joint statement released Thursday, the Republican leaders of the Missouri House of Representatives said they will conduct an investigation into Greitens conduct before making a determination as to whether or not he should step down.
"We will fully 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," Speaker of the Missouri House Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo wrote in a joint statement, "The people of Missouri deserve no less. We will begin the process of tasking a group of legislators to investigate these serious charges."
The next hearing in Greitens case is scheduled for March 16, according to court documents.