US

Ex-wife accuses Missouri GOP Senate candidate of abuse

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, now a leading Republican candidate for the Senatewas physically violent and exhibited such “unstable and coercive behavior” that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms, according to new allegations from his ex-wife revealed in court records.

A sworn affidavit by Sheena Greitens filed Monday is part of an ongoing child custody dispute in Missouri. A public affairs professor at the University of Texas, she filed for divorce from Eric Greitens after a sex scandal that led to his resignation as governor in June 2018. She is now asking the court to move the case from custody in the Austin area, in part to spare his children from renewed public attention as Eric Greitens attempts to make a political comeback.

Eric Greitens called the allegations “completely fabricated” and “baseless”.

“I seek full custody of my sons, and for them, I will continue to pray for their mother and hope she gets the help she needs,” he said in a statement posted on his website. twitter account.

His attorney on Monday asked a judge to block the affidavit from public view, saying open access could cause “irreparable harm to his reputation and his candidacy.”

A lawyer for Sheena Greitens did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The allegations could complicate his bid to emerge from the Aug. 2 Missouri primary as the GOP nominee and potentially jeopardize his party’s chance to retain a key Senate seat in the general election.

In the affidavit, Sheena Greitens portrays her ex-husband as someone who threatened to use his political connections and influence to destroy his reputation to gain custody of the children.

“Before our divorce, during an argument in late April 2018, Eric ran over me and confiscated my cell phone, wallet and keys so I couldn’t call for help or extricate myself and our children. of our home,” Sheena Greitens wrote. in the file. ‘I feared for my safety and that of our children back home’, later adding that his ‘behaviour included physical abuse of our children, such as handcuffing our then 3-year-old son across the face at the dinner table. in front of me and pulling him by the hair.

In 2019, one of her sons returned from a visit with his father “with a swollen face, bleeding gums and a loose tooth”, she said.

“He said dad hit him; however, Eric said they were fighting and it was an accident,” Sheena Greitens wrote, adding that the tooth eventually had to be removed.

Once a swing state, Missouri has become more reliably Republican in recent years. But the race to succeed retired Senator Roy Blunt is nonetheless the subject of national attention as some members of the GOP establishment fear that with the allegations released Monday and previous scandals, Greitens faces vulnerabilities against a Democrat. And with the Senate evenly divided, the GOP cannot afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.

Other candidates running on Monday called on Greitens to end his campaign.

“Real men never abuse women and children. Full stop, end of story,” US GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler said in a recorded statement posted to Twitter. “It’s time for Eric to step out of the Senate race and get some professional help.”

Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is also a candidate, tweeted, “The behavior described in this affidavit is the reason Eric Greitens is in jail, not on the US Senate ballot.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican who will become Missouri’s lead senator when Blunt steps down, also said it was “time for Eric Greitens to step down from this race.”

“If you hit a woman or a child, you belong in handcuffs, not the US Senate,” he tweeted.

Greitens was a rising GOP star after his election in 2016, a charismatic former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar who founded a nonprofit to benefit veterans. He also made no secret of his ambition, reserving the site EricGreitensForPresident.com.

But that all seemed to fade after he was indicted for invasion of privacy in February 2018 in St. Louis, accused of taking a compromising photo of his hairdresser without her consent during an extramarital affair in 2015. Meanwhile, a Missouri House committee began investigating campaign finance issues, and Greitens faced a second felony charge in St. Louis.

Eric Greitens mostly kept a low profile after resigning in 2018. That changed last year after the Missouri Ethics Commission found probable cause “that Greitens’ campaign violated campaign finance law. , but also” found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Eric Greitens. , individually.

Greitens said the ruling had “fully cleared” him.

Sheena Greitens’ affidavit, however, paints a grim picture of her final days as governor. At one point, she says, Eric Greitens bought a gun but refused to tell her where it was. He also threatened to kill himself “unless I provide specific public political support,” she wrote.

The behavior was so alarming, she wrote, that on three occasions in February, April and May 2018, “several people other than myself were sufficiently concerned to intervene to limit Eric’s access to firearms.” .

“I started sleeping in my kids’ room just to try and keep them safe,” she wrote.

At one point, Eric Greitens referenced the fact that he had the kids — and she didn’t — while trying to persuade Sheena Greitens to delete emails she had sent the family therapist asking help, according to the affidavit.

“Eric threatened to charge me with child abuse if I didn’t delete the emails and convince the therapist to delete them,” she wrote.

She also said that in the same phone call, Eric Greitens scolded her as a “despicable, disgusting, mean, vicious… liar b – – – h” while accusing her of providing information about her to the prosecutors and the St. Louis Post. – Shipping Log.

Weeks later, he got angry and confronted her when she tried to fly with the children to her parents’ house, she said.

He “threatened to come to the airport and have me arrested for kidnapping and child abuse, saying that because of his authority as a former governor who had supported law enforcement, the police would would support and not believe me”.

In 2020, after telling Eric Greitens she was taking a job at the University of Texas, she said he threatened “to use his political influence to have my job offer revoked.”

Her ex-husband’s re-emergence in politics has been trying, Sheena Greitens said in the affidavit. Meanwhile, his past ability to influence law enforcement and appoint judges, and the even greater power he would gain as a senator are “extremely daunting”, she wrote.

“Now that Eric is running for federal office, the public interest in my life, my relationship with Eric and the breakdown of it, and the existence of custody issues between Eric and I are reignited and brought back to the center public debate,” wrote Sheena Greitens.

“The weight of these facts and the intimidation they cause” justifies moving the case to Texas, she wrote, where “the reach of his power and influence is significantly less”.

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Slodysko reported from Washington.

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