Nation & World

Greitens controversy triggers Navy review of how to handle misconduct allegations

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ return to military service has triggered a review of how the U.S. Navy handles allegations of personal misconduct.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the Navy has not yet determined whether it will allow Greitens to continue to serve, and if it does, whether he will be allowed to hold a job outside of the state.

A May 30 memo written by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, calling for a review of how the Navy handles cases involving personal misconduct accusations, doesn’t mention Greitens by name.

But the memo, provided to The Star by the Navy Friday afternoon after an inquiry about Greitens, says that while the vast majority of its personnel are committed to being “of high moral character,” there are “service members who are unwilling to conform their behavior to our ethical standards. In those disappointing situations, appropriate response action must be both timely and just.”

Richardson instructed his subordinates to review the Navy’s methods for documenting misconduct and standards for evaluating cases of alleged misconduct when considering promotions or re-enlistment.

The Star reported last week that Greitens, who resigned from office a year ago this week, has been telling friends and supporters that he was returning to the Navy and would deploy overseas later this fall.

But while Greitens is back in the Navy, he was not approved to rejoin as an elite Navy SEAL— the cornerstone of his public image as an author, philanthropist and politician.

Several prominent critics of the military’s response to sexual assault in its ranks have publicly questioned why Greitens was allowed to return at all. They also asked why he was not prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) after his admission in 2015 of an extramarital affair, which is a crime under the UCMJ.

Retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, the former chief prosecutor of the Air Force, said in an email that the Navy’s decision to conduct a review is a good sign but “it’s disturbing that it took public outcry to have the Navy review its indefensible decision.”

Christensen, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, added that “unless the Navy follows through and removes Greitens, this will be meaningless.”

Greitens could not immediately be reached for comment.

Among the litany of scandals that forced Greitens from office were accusations that he engaged in violent and coercive sexual misconduct during a 2015 affair.

The woman with whom he was involved testified under oath last year to the St. Louis prosecutor and a legislative committee considering impeachment that Greitens took a nude photo of her against her will and threatened to make it public if she ever told anyone about their encounter.

Greitens faced a criminal indictment for felony invasion of privacy. The criminal case was dropped while lawmakers were still weighing ousting the governor from office. They found credible the woman’s testimony that an initial sexual encounter with Greitens was not consensual.

Documents and emails obtained by The Washington Post show that Joseph D. Kernan, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for intelligence, reached out to the Navy in January to see if Greitens could return.

Kernan is a former Navy SEAL who knew Greitens from their time in the military.

Greitens admitted he had an extramarital affair for several months in 2015, but vehemently denied the woman’s allegations of a sexual assault.

He was charged with felony invasion of privacy in St. Louis over the accusations, but the charges were eventually dropped, with the prosecutor citing statutes of limitation and potentially missing evidence.

He faced a second felony charge involving allegations that he illegally used a donor list from veterans charity he founded to jumpstart his political career.

That charge was also dropped as part of a deal that forced Greitens from office.

The Navy approved a request Greitens made in April to transfer from inactive standby reserve status to active status in the selected reserves.

A Navy official previously told The Star that any member of the reserves seeking to transfer to active status would have undergone a physical, a security clearance review and a legal review, to see if any court records involving the applicant could potentially disqualify him or her from returning to active service.

Because there were no convictions, Greitens cleared those reviews and was approved for transfer to active status, the official said.

Jason Hancock is The Star’s lead political reporter, providing coverage of government and politics on both sides of the state line. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he has written about politics for more than a decade for news organizations across the Midwest.
Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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