Eric Greitens accused of physical abuse in affidavit filed by his ex-wife

By: and - March 21, 2022 1:01 pm

Eric Greitens addresses the media on Feb. 22 after filing for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. (Madeline Carter/Missouri Independent).

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is facing new allegations that he physically abused his ex-wife and children, and that in the months before his resignation became so unstable that his access to firearms had to be limited. 

The accusations are included in a sworn affidavit filed by former Missouri First Lady Sheena Greitens as part of an ongoing child custody dispute. She sought a divorce from Eric Greitens in 2020 and is asking a court to move the child custody case to Austin, Texas, where she is currently a professor at the University of Texas. The affidavit was first reported Monday by The Associated Press.

Eric Greitens’ “unstable and coercive” behavior included physical violence to their children, “such as cuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by his hair,” the affidavit states.

In November 2019, the affidavit states that one of their sons came home from a visit with Eric Greitens with a swollen face, bleeding gums and loose tooth and said his father had hit him. The affidavit states Greitens said it was an accident while roughhousing. The tooth later had to be surgically removed.

In addition to allegedly abusing his children, Sheena Greitens alleges Eric Greitens knocked her down and confiscated her cell phone, wallet and keys during a 2018 argument so she would be “unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home.”

In the spring and early summer of 2018, Sheena Greitens also said her ex-husband repeatedly threatened to commit suicide unless she showed “specific public political support” for him. As a result, she and others were so concerned they limited his access to firearms on at least three occasions that year. 

“I started sleeping in my children’s room simply to try to keep them safe,” Sheena Greitens said in the affidavit. 

In response to the affidavit, Dylan Johnson, Greitens’ campaign manager, released a statement denying the allegations of physical abuse, saying the former governor is a “great Dad” and accusing the former Missouri First Lady of “emotionally-abusive behavior.”

“One of the documented reasons Eric sought a divorce from Sheena was because of her constant threats to lie about him, which she made repeatedly over many years, in the belief that the press would believe anything that she said,” Johnson said. 

“Eric will fight for his children and defend himself from these outright lies,” Johnson said.

In a statement of his own Monday afternoon, Eric Greitens said: “I have faith, and I know that ultimately the truth will always prevail.”

Neither Sheena Greitens nor her attorney, Helen Wade, could be immediately reached for comment on the former governor’s accusations or the affidavit made public Monday. After the allegations surfaced Monday, Eric Greitens’ opponents in the Republican U.S. Senate primary swiftly called on him to exit the race.

Eric Greitens’ attorney, Gary Stamper, filed a motion Monday requesting the case’s records be immediately sealed. He argued in a filing that “public disclosure of (Sheena Greitens’) allegations — that are as yet unproven — will irreparably harm (Eric Greitens’) candidacy and will deprive him of his due process right to a fair trial due to the intense public pressure the allegations will impose…”  

Invasion of privacy

The new accusations come as Eric Greitens attempts a political comeback, launching a bid last year to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. But he continues to be dogged by the allegations of violent sexual misconduct that drove him from the governor’s office in 2018. 

Those accusations centered on a 2015 affair in which he allegedly led a women down to his basement, taped her hands to pull-up rings, blindfolded her, spit water into her mouth, ripped open her shirt, pulled down her pants and took a photo without her consent.

The felony charge that stemmed from that allegation was eventually dropped by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who cited statutes of limitation that had or were about to pass and potentially missing evidence.

Eric Greitens denied ever taking the photo, but Sheena Greitens attested in the affidavit that he admitted to her in late January 2021 that he had in fact taken the photo that resulted in the invasion of privacy charge and threatened legal consequences if Sheena Greitens ever shared that fact with anyone — including family members or a therapist.

“Through that excruciating process, I saw Eric seek to destroy the credibility of the victim in the invasion of privacy case, using the unique leverage he had in Missouri to do so,” Sheena Greitens said in the affidavit. “This history made his threats against me seem all the more credible. Now, I am watching him use his political influence and public platform to make these claims again, as this nightmare is back in public view…”

He also allegedly ordered her to destroy emails she had sent to their therapist, who Sheena Greitens said she had sought out for help with Eric Greitens’ “escalating behavior.” If she and the therapist did not delete the emails, he threatened to accuse her of child abuse, the affidavit states.

During the same call, he reminded Sheena Greitens he was currently with the children and she wasn’t and accused her of giving information to prosecutors investigating him and to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and calling her “hateful, disgusting, nasty, vicious… a lying bitch.”

Days later when Sheena Greitens told him of her plans to take the children to her parents’ house out of fear for their safety, “he threatened to come to the airport and have me arrested for kidnapping and child abuse.” He cited the support from law enforcement he had as governor as justification that “the police would support him and not believe me, and I would lose our children.”

In early 2020, after she told him of her intention to accept a position at the University of Texas, he threatened to use his political influence to have the job offer revoked, the affidavit states.

With Eric Greitens now a candidate for federal office, their custody issues and the breakdown of their relationship have been thrust to the forefront of public discussion, heightening the risk to both her and her children, Sheena Greitens said in the affidavit.

Moving the case to Texas would mitigate the reach of Eric Greitens’ power and influence and the impact of personal attacks, Sheen Greitens attests.

Avalanche of scandals

The list of scandals that forced Greitens from the Missouri governor’s office in 2018 is long and varied. 

In addition to the allegations of sexual misconduct during the 2015 affair, Greitens also was accused of stealing a donor list from a veteran’s charity he founded in order to boost his political career — a felony charge that was dropped as part of a plea deal that stipulated prosecutors had “sufficient evidence” to bring his case to trial.

Before his resignation, the Republican-dominated Missouri General Assembly was set to impeach him and remove him from office. An ethics complaint filed by the lawmaker who led the impeachment effort resulted in one of the largest fines in the history of the Missouri Ethics Commission — a $178,000 hit to Greitens’ campaign committee for violating state law.

The ethics commission concluded, however, that there was no evidence Greitens was involved in the wrongdoing.

Greitens hoped to return to the Navy following his resignation. But neither the Navy, nor the elite Navy SEALs, wanted him back. It was only after intervention from the office of then Vice President Mike Pence that Greitens was allowed to return to the Navy as a reservist.

Since his reemergence in Missouri politics last year, when he launched his Senate bid, many Republicans have publicly fretted that Greitens could win in a crowded GOP primary but ultimately lose the seat to a Democrat in November because of his scandal-plagued history. 

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Tessa Weinberg
Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covered education, health care and the legislature with the Missouri Independent. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She also covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.

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