WASHINGTON (AP) — Two former staffers who worked for a congressional delegate from the Virgin Islands have been charged in connection with the circulation of nude images and video of the delegate and her husband, prosecutors announced Thursday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement that Juan R. McCullum of the District of Columbia was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of cyberstalking and Dorene Browne-Louis of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was indicted on two counts of obstruction of justice.
The statement does not give the name of the member they worked for, but Del. Stacey Plaskett previously acknowledged that private images of her had been stolen and leaked on the internet. An online service that tracks congressional employment also lists that both McCullum and Browne-Louis worked for the delegate during a time frame that matches information given by prosecutors.
Plaskett, in her second term in the nonvoting position, said in a statement that her privacy had been invaded last year and that "an organized smear campaign and defamatory press reports concerning both me and my family" had followed. She said she was grateful to the investigators and prosecutors as well as her constituents.
According to a court document unsealed Thursday, in March 2016, McCullum offered to help Plaskett repair a malfunctioning iPhone by taking it to a local Apple store. Plaskett gave McCullum, 35, the password to the phone in order to get it repaired, and the phone contained nude images and video of Plaskett and her husband, the document says. McCullum was not given permission to take, copy or distribute information from the phone, the document says.
In early July 2016, after McCullum left Plaskett's office, he created an email account with a fictitious name and sent at least 10 emails to politicians, members of the media and others in which he attached one or more of the nude images or video, the document alleges. He also allegedly created a Facebook account and posted several of the nude images and videos and "friended" people Plaskett knew, including politicians competing with her in a primary election.
Browne-Louis, 45, for her part, is not accused of distributing the images, but she allegedly made false and misleading statements to law enforcement officers during an investigation of the images' distribution, telling officers that she did not know that McCullum was involved in the images' distribution. She also allegedly provided false, incomplete and misleading testimony before a federal grand jury. Her false and misleading statements allegedly included that she did not know that McCullum "wanted to seek revenge" against Plaskett. The court document did not make clear why McCullum might be seeking revenge.
Attempts to reach McCullum by phone or email were unsuccessful. Telephone and email messages left for an attorney representing Browne-Louis were not immediately returned.
Associated Press reporter Matthew Daly contributed to this report from Washington
Del. Stacey Plaskett said in a statement:
Last year, my privacy was invaded, which was followed by an organized smear campaign and defamatory press reports concerning both me and my family. I was informed today that preliminary arrests had been made of individuals who were involved in those illegal acts. I am deeply grateful to the Capitol Police and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for their thorough and in depth investigating the crimes committed against me, and those who I love. Aside from the arrests announced today, the investigation is ongoing, and because of that, we are not able to provide any other updates at this time.
While we continue to be saddened by the damage we suffered as a result of those egregious acts, my family is also incredibly thankful to the people of the Virgin Islands, who have shown us tremendous care, sensitivity, and love throughout this ordeal. The most important thing to me is the well-being of my family, and I will always be grateful to the residents, and families, of our territory for their support.