Tag Archive: mark shuster UGA


 

 

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The crude oil spill from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November has turned out to be nearly twice as big as first reported.  Around 407,000 gallons spilled onto farmland when the pipeline broke near Amherst in Marshall County on Nov. 16th.  TransCanada had originally put the spill at 210,000 gallons but the new number would make the spill the seventh-largest onshore oil spill since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

TransCanada had shut down the 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline, one of Canada’s main crude export routes linking Alberta’s oil fields to U.S. refineries, immediately following the spill.  Repairs were made and TransCanada resumed using the pipeline 12 days after the leak.  Immediately after the leak was reported South Dakota regulators said they could revoke TransCanada’s permit for the Keystone Pipeline if an investigation concludes that the company violated its terms. If that happens, the company would have to correct any issues—in the worst case, even replace part of the pipeline—before oil shipments could resume.

A preliminary report indicated that the pipeline might have been damaged during its’ construction in 2008, though the investigation is ongoing. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is expected to release its final report on the leak in the next few weeks. The federal agency has estimated that the leak cost TransCanada $9.57 million.  The Keystone Pipeline carries oil more than 2,600 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Oklahoma and Illinois.

In February, TransCanada Corp. reported that the cleanup of the massive oil spill was halfway finished.  TransCanada spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said work at the Amherst site has transitioned from excavation to remediation. She stated that all of the excavation work has been completed and most of the impacted soil has been removed.  In late March, Tysver said the company had replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.”   The company also agreed to restore the roads used by trucks transporting equipment and soil.

A spill and activity report on the agency’s website shows that TransCanada has installed groundwater monitoring systems, which haven’t yet detected any contamination.

The pipeline runs through both Dakotas and two other states and drew fierce resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the tribe’s allies and environmentalists.  Opposition to the pipeline sparked month’s long protests, with as many as 10,000 people participating during the peak of the demonstrations.

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Three people were shot Tuesday at the Silicon Valley headquarters of YouTube when a woman opened fire before turning the gun on herself. The violence broke out just after noon in a courtyard outside YouTube’s main building in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno. Police have identified the shooter as 39 year old Nasim Najafi Aghdam.

Aghdam was a frequent uploader to YouTube who’d had videos banned from the streaming service for “multiple or severe violations” of its policy. Beginning in 2010, she posted more than 500 videos, a total of 17 hours about fitness, veganism and animal rights. About a year ago she started expressing her anger with YouTube’s censorship.  “My new videos hardly get views … so this is because I’m being filtered,” Aghdam said in one video.

In one online video, Aghdam accused YouTube of censoring her and depriving her of income from advertising. The woman’s grievances against YouTube appear to focus on censorship and revenue.  “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!” one post reads. “Youtube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!”  Another post accuses “close-minded” YouTube employees of putting an age restriction on videos, saying it’s aimed at reducing views and discouraging the woman from making new videos.

On April 2, 2018, Aghdam was reported missing by her family.  On April 3rd at 1:40 AM, police officers found her sleeping in her car in a Walmart parking lot in Mountain View, 25 miles south of YouTube’s headquarters.  After speaking with her for 20 minutes they did not identify her as a threat or have any reason to detain her.  They notified her family that she had been found.

Later that morning Aghdam practiced shooting her legally purchased 9 MM Smith & Wesson at a gun range in San Bruno.  She then parked near YouTube headquarters and entered the campus on foot.  After walking through a parking garage into a courtyard she opened fire with a handgun, wounding three people before killing herself.  Police say she had no connection to her victims her motive was apparently a grievance with YouTube’s practices and policies.  Two of her victims have been released from the hospital and one was listed in serious condition.

More than 1,100 people work at the YouTube campus in San Bruno, south of San Francisco. Employees there include engineers for the site and sales teams that work with advertisers and content creators.  The company said Wednesday it will increase security at its headquarters and offices around the world.

 

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During the trial of Noor Salman, widow of the Pulse Nightclub shooter, testimony has revealed that the father of shooter Omar Mateen had worked as an FBI informant. Seddique Mateen, Omar’s father, was a confidential FBI informant from 2005 to 2016. He is now under investigation for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan.

FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin, who was on the stand in the terrorism trial of Noor Salman, said Omar’s father, Seddique, was upset and had called him while his son was being investigated for the extremist comments in 2006.  Martin testified that, during the call which took place a decade before the Pulse attack, Seddique told him something like “if he had done those things he was being stupid.” Martin said the FBI interviewed Omar two other times as part of that investigation, but eventually determined he wasn’t a security threat. The bureau even considered turning Omar into a confidential informant himself, according to Martin’s testimony.

The trial produced several revelations about the shooting. Prosecutors said Mateen originally intended to attack Disney World, using a gun concealed in a baby stroller, but changed his mind after seeing police at the entertainment complex.  Government witnesses, using data from Mateen’s cell phone, said he looked up information about Orlando nightclubs and went back and forth between two of them before setting on Pulse as his target.

Omar Mateen’s widow, Noor Salman, was found not guilty of all charges against her in the only trial to stem from the deadly June 2016 shooting rampage.  She was accused of helping her husband plan his terror assault on the Orlando, Florida, nightclub and of falsely denying her role afterward.  The government equated Mateen’s actions with supporting terrorism, because he repeatedly pledged allegiance to ISIS before and during the attack, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured.

Salman was charged with aiding him in providing material support to a terror group.  She was also charged with obstruction of justice, accused of misleading police and FBI agents by making contradictory statements about whether she knew what he was planning.  In opening statements, defense attorney Linda Moreno said Salman was a person with a low IQ who did not know “she would wake up a widow, and Omar Mateen a martyr for a cause that she didn’t support.”

In a November 2016 interview with The New York Times, Salman apologized for her husband’s act and claimed she was unaware of his plan.  “I don’t condone what he has done,” she told the newspaper. “I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.”  FBI agents arrested Salman in January 2017 inside the California home she shares with her young son and she had been in custody since then.

Outside the courtroom, a spokesman for Salman’s family said “The family really wants to first say that we’re very sorry for the family members and friends of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and also the survivors of that horrible attack.” “Noor can go home now to her son, Zack, resume her life and try to pick up the pieces.”

The June 2016 Pulse Nightclub massacre was the deadliest single gunman mass shooting in United States history until the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.  It is the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the September 11 attacks of 2001.

 

 

 

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French police officer Arnaud Beltrame has died from his injuries after he offered to exchange himself for one of the female hostages being held inside the Super U supermarket in Trèbes.  The violence unfolded Friday morning when the attacker, identified as Radouane Lakdim, stole a car, killing the passenger and gravely wounding the driver.  Lakdim then drove towards military and police barracks where he shot at four National Police officers who were jogging before trying to run them down.  One of the officers was wounded.

The gunman proceeded to the Super U market armed with a gun, knife and explosives.  He began shooting as he walked inside shouting that he was a soldier from Isis.  Two people were killed and several others wounded.  Christian Medves, 50, a butcher in charge of the meat counter was shot first and Hervé Sosna, 65, a shopper was then killed while 16 others were wounded.

Around 50 terrified shoppers and staff managed to escape but several were taken as hostages.  Witnesses said about 20 people in the supermarket found refuge in its cold storage room.  Police found the car, and SWAT teams surrounded the market, at around 11am, beginning the three hour standoff. “They managed to get some of the people out,” said Interior Minister Collomb, but the attacker kept one woman hostage to use as a human shield. Officer Arnaud Beltrame, offered to take the place of the woman.  The lieutenant colonel had his phone on so police could hear his interactions with the gunman.  Collomb said that at one point the National Police lieutenant colonel shot the gunman.  After hearing shots, police stormed the supermarket where Lakdim had been left holding only Beltrame. Lakdim was killed and Officer Beltrame, who had been shot and stabbed, later died from his injuries.

Lakdim, 25, a small-time drug-dealer who had French nationality and was born in Morocco, left a handwritten letter at his home pledging allegiance to Isis.  He was known to authorities for petty crimes, but had been under surveillance by security services in 2016-2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who is leading the investigation.  One neighbour told a news reporter that the suspect was a pleasant young man who was “calm, friendly, and always had a nice word to say.”  He reportedly lived in an apartment block with his parents and sisters, and would take the youngest child to school every day.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said that he believed Lakdim had acted alone and that the gunman also brought homemade explosives into the supermarket.  Police continue to question a 17-year-old and Lakdim’s 18-year-old girlfriend. Collomb said the gunman had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam – the prime surviving suspect in Islamic State suicide bombing and mass shooting attacks on a sports stadium, concert hall and restaurants that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015.  Abdeslam, a French citizen born and raised in Brussels, went on trial in Belgium last month.

President Macron hailed the fallen officer as a hero saying of the officer. “He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country,”

Maryland School Shooting

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In Maryland, 17-year-old Austin Rollins shot two other students at Great Mills High School on Tuesday morning before a school resource officer engaged him and stopped the threat, authorities said.  The incident began in a school hallway at 7:55 a.m., just before classes started. Authorities say Austin Wyatt Rollins, armed with a handgun, shot a female and a male student. The shooter had a prior relationship with the female student that had recently ended, St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron said.

The gunman shot Jaelynn Willey, 16, in the hallway of the school and a bullet hit 14-year-old Desmond Barnes in the thigh.  School resource officer Blaine Gaskill responded to the scene in less than a minute and fired a round at the shooter while the shooter simultaneously fired a round, Cameron said.  Rollins was later pronounced dead at Charles Regional Medical Center while Gaskill was unharmed.

Jaelynn Willey was transported to the hospital in critical condition with life-threatening injuries.  Desmond Barnes was treated in stable condition and later released.  The Willey family held a press conference two days later, on March 22nd, announcing that they’d made the decision to take Jaelynn off of life support. Hours later, the sheriff’s office confirmed that she had died.

The quick response and actions of St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputy Blaine Gaskill, who had been assigned to the school last year, has been credited with preventing any more loss of life.  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, residents and many media outlets have praised him for putting his life on the line and ending the situation quickly.   Gaskill has yet to make a statement to the public.

Sheriff Cameron, is also among the many who have praised Gaskill, a six-year veteran with SWAT team training, for his actions.  “He responded exactly as we train our personnel to respond,”   “This is what we train for, this is what we prepare for, and this is what we pray that we never have to do. On this day, we realized our worst nightmare,” Cameron said.  “The notion of ‘it can’t happen here’ is no longer a notion.”

The school was on lockdown for a brief time, and students were evacuated from Great Mills High School to a reunification center at a nearby high school, the school system said.  Austin Wyatt Rollins was an honor student at Great Mills High School. Rollins was born in Tennessee and moved to Maryland with his family in 2004.  According to police, the Glock handgun used in the shooting legally belonged to his father, Rocky Rollins.

Officer Gaskill’s actions stand in stark contrast to that of Parkland school safety officer Scot Peterson, who resigned amid reports that he went AWOL when the shooting started.  Peterson took position outside the building and never entered the building even though gun fire could still be heard.  In fact, what Gaskill did is extremely rare.  According to an analysis of dozens of school shootings done by the Washington Post, Gaskill is only the second school resource officer to kill an active shooter since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

 

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The serial bomber, now identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, killed himself with an explosive device as police were closing in on him.  After a fifth explosion happened early Tuesday at a FedEx sorting facility near San Antonio, investigators used video surveillance images of a man dropping off two packages Sunday at a FedEx store south of Austin to identify Conditt.  Another unexploded package bomb was discovered at another FedEx facility near Austin.

Officials say they tracked him to a hotel in Round Rock, about 20 miles north of Austin, after reportedly identifying him using receipts, internet searches, witness sketches and the surveillance video.  Authorities were outside the hotel Wednesday morning when Conditt left the hotel.  They followed him until he was forced into a ditch on the side of Interstate 35 where he detonated a bomb inside his vehicle, killing himself and injuring a SWAT officer.  Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Conditt sensed that authorities were closing in on him on Tuesday night and recorded a 25-minute video confessing to building the explosive devices — but didn’t explain why he targeted his victims or a motive for his actions.

After the fourth explosion occurred over the weekend, authorities in Austin, Texas, warned the public that the series of package explosions are connected.  None of the packages were mailed, instead they were placed near the individuals’ homes.  They warned civilians to not open suspicious packages and to call the police.  Over 500 agents from the FBI and ATF were assisting the Austin Police Department in the investigation.

The explosions started on March 2, 2018, when 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House was killed while opening an apparent package bomb at his home.  On March 12th, two more explosions occurred within hours of one another at two separate residences.  The first killed 17-year-old bassist Draylen Mason and injured his mother.  The second explosion that day, severely injured a 75 year old woman.  Authorities say those two bombs were triggered upon being picked up.

A third explosion on March 18th injured two men in a residential neighborhood.  The two men, a 22 year old and 23 year old, suffered serious although not life-threatening injuries from an apparently tripwire-activated parcel bomb left on the side of the road.  After the last explosion, authorities warned the public of a “serial bomber” possessing “a higher level of sophistication, a higher level of skill” than initially thought.  Frederick Milanowski, special agent in charge for the ATF said that the bomb was anchored to a metal sign near a hiking trail and triggered by a wire as thin as fishing line that would’ve been incredibly difficult to see.

Authorities first offered a reward of $65,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the bomber or bombers but later raised the reward to $115,000.  Police were looking at surveillance video in the neighborhoods in hopes of being able to identify a suspect.  At a news conference, interim police Chief Brian Manley said the pair were walking on either the sidewalk or the median when the device was triggered by a trip wire.  “That changes things,” he said, “Our safety message to this point has been involving the handling of packages, and telling this community, ‘Do not handle packages, do not pick up packages, do not disturb packages.”  “We now need to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack — anything that looks out of place — and please do not approach it.”

 

 

 

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Authorities say six people have died after a 960-ton span of a pedestrian bridge collapsed on Thursday, onto a busy street below, killing six motorists under an avalanche of concrete and metal.  At least nine others were injured in the collapse of the nearly 200-foot-long bridge, which was under construction near the campus of Florida International University.  The bridge, which was still being installed at the time of the collapse, was built to connect Florida International University with downtown Sweetwater, where many students live.  The bridge was not scheduled to open until 2019.

Senator Marco Rubio said suspension cables on the bridge “were being tightened when it collapsed.”  Police are enlisting the help of engineers as they investigate the cause of the collapse.  The National Transportation Safety Board, Miami-Dade homicide detectives and prosecutors are focusing on the government agencies and two contractors — Munilla Construction Management, which was building the structure, and FIGG Bridge Group, which engineered and designed the span.

A lead engineer with the private contractor FIGG Bridge Engineers -who constructed the bridge, left a voice mail for a state transportation official warning of “some cracking observed on the north end of the span” two days before the structure collapsed.  In the message, which was not retrieved until Friday, the engineer said he did not consider the crack a safety issue.  The Florida Department of Transportation official to whom the voice mail was directed was out of the office on assignment.  Footage of the collapse, taken from a vehicle dashcam, suggests the concrete came apart on the north end — the same area that the bridge’s design engineer spoke about in the message.

On Thursday, shortly before the bridge collapsed, a meeting was held regarding the crack that appeared on the structure.  The university said that the meeting was convened by FIGG and Munilla Construction Management (MCM), which built the bridge.  “The FIGG engineer of record delivered a technical presentation regarding the crack and concluded that there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” the university said in a statement, adding that representatives of the school and the state Department of Transportation attended the session, which lasted two hours.

News outlets speculating over the cause of the collapse have focused on the cracks reported but experts say other factors, including the tensioning work going on at the bridge’s north end are of more concern.  They say cracking in new concrete is not uncommon and not necessarily a sign of failure.  Tightening of steel cables, or tendons, that run through concrete structural elements is a delicate operation, and over-tightening can cause concrete pieces to twist and break apart, experts say.

Rescue workers dug through the rubble nonstop for two days, pulling out crushed vehicles in search of victims.  All six victims were identified by Saturday morning as Florida International University student Alexa Duran, 18; Brandon Brownfield, a tower crane technician, husband and father of three; Rolando Fraga Hernandez, 60, was a systems technician at ITG Communications; Osvaldo González, 57 and Alberto Arias, 54.  Navarro Brown, 37, an employee with Structural Technologies VSL, died at a hospital shortly after the accident.  Two other employees of the company were hospitalized at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami in stable condition.

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An investigation into internal New York City Police Department files show that hundreds of officers have been allowed to keep their jobs and pensions despite having committed an array of offenses. According to hundreds of pages of internal police files, offenses committed from 2011 to 2015 by over 300 NYPD officers include excessive force against civilians, driving under the influence of alcohol, selling drugs, sexually harassing fellow officers, assault, threatening and stealing.
At least fifty officers lied on official reports, under oath, or during an internal affairs investigation. Thirty-eight were found guilty by a police tribunal of excessive force, getting into a fight, or firing their gun unnecessarily. Fifty-seven were guilty of driving under the influence. Seventy-one were guilty of ticket-fixing. One officer threatened to kill someone while some were guilty of lesser offenses, like mouthing off to a supervisor.
In every instance, the police commissioner, who has final authority in disciplinary decisions, assigned these officers to “dismissal probation” which is a penalty with few consequences. The officer continues to do their job at their usual salary but they may get less overtime and won’t be promoted during that period, which usually lasts a year. They continue to patrol the streets, arrest people and testify in criminal prosecutions. When the year is over, their probation period ends.
The probation files covered in the investigation do not include all officers who received dismissal probation during the 2011 to 2015 period. According to the NYPD, of the more than 50,000 people who work for the department, at least 777 officers and an untold number of other employees received the dismissal probation penalty during the five years in question. During that same period, 463 additional officers were forced to leave or resigned while a disciplinary charge was pending. Sources have said that dismissal probation is also used to punish some officers for reporting misconduct or just for getting on their supervisors’ bad sides. Still, many officers continue to patrol the streets making over $100,000 a year while the city has paid millions of dollars in civil settlements for offenses committed between 2011 and 2015, such as excessive force or unlawful arrest. These settlements are reached without the department or officer admitting any wrongdoing.
New York is one of three states, along with Delaware and California that has a law specifically shielding police misconduct records from the public. As police departments around the country face growing pressure to be more transparent about police misconduct, NYPD has doubled down on its stringent legal interpretation of those laws. Civil Rights Law Section 50-a is the law that hides New York police officers’ misconduct from public view and it’s one of the strictest in the nation.
The Department Advocate’s Office determines which officers to charge and prosecute at the NYPD’s internal disciplinary trials. Kevin Richardson, the deputy commissioner said the law prevented him from commenting on specific officers’ cases but that dismissal probation serves a valuable purpose. “The department is not interested in terminating officers that don’t need to be terminated. We’re interested in keeping employees and making our employees obey the rules and do the right thing, but where there are failings that we realize this person should be separated from the department, this police commissioner and the prior police commissioner have shown a willingness to do that.”

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West Virginia teachers have been on a statewide teachers strike over low pay and rising costs for health insurance. The strike comes after teachers have staged rallies and protests for weeks, including a massive rally at the state Capitol. In 2016, teachers pay in the state ranked 48th in the nation with salaries beginning at just over $32,000 for a new teacher. The average teacher salary for the state was $45,622, more than 20% below the national average. In the past, affordable health care benefits helped make up for low wages, but because West Virginia hasn’t been putting enough money into the state agency that insures public employees, premiums and co-payments have been increasing significantly.
West Virginia is a so-called right-to-work state where strikes by public employees are prohibited yet 20,000 public school teachers and 13,000 school staffers have crossed the picket line. Teachers haven’t seen an across-the-board pay raise since 2014 even though healthcare costs have continued to rise—leaving many teachers with dwindling take-home pay.
After launching a 4-day statewide strike, unionized teachers won a 5 percent pay raise which amounts to just a few thousand dollars annually. On Feb. 27, Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders negotiated a deal that would have had the state employees return to work on March 1 — but, in a twist, the state Senate refused to vote on the legislation that would implement the agreed-upon 5% raise. Instead, senators argued for a 4% raise and sent an amended version of the bill back to the state House of Delegates.
Striking teachers had agreed to return to work once the deal was signed so now the strike continues and public schools remain closed. Teachers say the deal isn’t enough to offset skyrocketing premiums in the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
As West Virginia teachers revolt, teachers in Oklahoma — where 2016 teacher salaries ranked 49th in the country — are considering their own statewide strike. Oklahoma teachers say they have reached their breaking point over pay and school funding and may walk off the job next month. Galvanized by a growing social media campaign, teachers wanted competitive pay to attract and keep teachers in the state. Teachers were hoping for a $5,000 raise with House Bill 1033, collectively called the Step Up Oklahoma Plan, which looked to increase the tax on tobacco and gas. The bill was voted down in the state House because it didn’t get the 75% approval needed to pass, according to Oklahoma Department of Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to a 2016 study by the National Education Association. The average elementary school teacher makes $41,150, middle school teachers earn $42,380 and high school teachers make $42,460, according to a 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The last time Oklahoma teachers were given a raise was 2008, meanwhile the education budget has been cut by about 28% over the last 10 years.

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Missouri’s Governor Eric Greitens was arrested after a grand jury indicted him on charges of felony invasion of privacy stemming from an extramarital affair in 2015. The indictment accuses Greitens of blindfolding and tying up a woman with whom he was having a consensual affair, and then taking her picture without her consent—and threatening to release the naked photograph if she ever spoke publicly about the affair. Greitens was arraigned and later released on his own recognizance. He has acknowledged the affair but denies any criminal behavior including allegations of abusing or threatening the woman. Greitens remained defiant amid calls for resignation and impeachment less than 24 hours after a St. Louis grand jury indicted him for felony invasion of privacy.
Greitens is a former U.S. Navy SEAL who was elected in 2016 after he ran on a pro-gun, anti-Obama platform. After news of the affair broke in early January 2017, Greitens and his wife, Sheena, released a joint statement after a number of inquiries from the news media about the relationship. The couple revealed that there “was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage.” “This was a deeply personal mistake,” the Greitens, who have two young children, said in the statement. “Eric took responsibility and we dealt with this together honestly and privately.”
The accusations were relayed by the woman’s ex-husband, but she has not commented. The identified but still unnamed woman is a St. Louis area hairstylist. She told her ex-husband that she’d had an affair in 2015 with Eric Greitens — then philanthropist, now governor — and that he had tied her to home exercise equipment, taken a photo of her naked and threatened to publicly release it if she ever told anyone about him. She said Greitens later apologized and said he’d deleted the photo. She also told her ex-husband that Greitens had slapped her against her will, after she told Greitens she had had sex with her husband. The conversation was part of a therapeutic exercise but was recorded without her knowledge. The man filed for divorce in 2015, a few months after the affair.)
Behind the scenes, many state political figures and journalists had been aware of rumors about Greitens’ affair since September 2016. Journalists had held back from publication because the woman had not recorded the conversation herself or released it to the media, and she repeatedly declined to be interviewed on the record.
When Greitens was running for governor against Chris Koster, Roy Temple, an advisor to the Koster campaign, heard a rumor about the affair and contacted a mutual friend to him and the ex-husband. Temple said he met with the ex-husband to see whether he’d be interested in publicly telling his story, but the man, a prominent St. Louis entertainer, declined to proceed because he didn’t want his two children learning about the affair. The man only came forward in 2017 after a national reporter at another outlet called his 15-year-old about the allegations.