Congresswoman’s former staffers indicted for betraying her privacy

Juan McCullum, 35, was employed as general counsel for the delegate to Congress from the Virgin Islands. He also was on VH1’s reality show “I Love New York” and selected as one of the the prettiest faces working in politics by a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Two former staff employees of Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) have been indicted for circulating private, nude images and videos of the member and her spouse after stealing files from her computer.

Juan R. McCullum, 35, of Washington, D.C., was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of cyberstalking, and a co-worker, Dorene Browne-Louis, 45, of Upper Marlboro, Md., was indicted on two counts of obstruction of justice.

U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Matthew R. Verderosa, Chief of the United States Capitol Police, on Thursday unsealed the indictment, which was returned on July 11, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Plaskett, a member of the Agriculture and the Oversight and Government Reform committees, was not identified in  the indictment, but the delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the US Virgin Islands has issued statements confirming that she was the victim of the crimes.

According to the indictment, McCullum worked from April 2015 until June 2016 in Plaskett’s legislative office in Washington, D.C. Browne-Louis worked in the same office from January 2015 until April 2016.

The indictment alleges that, during the course of his employment, McCullum offered in March 2016 to assist Plaskett in repairing her malfunctioning, password-protected cellular iPhone by taking the device to a local Apple store.

According to the indictment, Plaskett provided McCullum with the device solely to have the iPhone repaired. McCullum was not given permission to take, copy, or distribute any of the contents of the iPhone. The iPhone contained the private, nude images and videos.

As alleged in the indictment, in July 2016, after McCullum left Plaskett’s staff, he engaged in a course of conduct that included creating a Hotmail account and a Facebook social media account, using a fictitious name, to distribute and post the private images and videos.

Further, according to the indictment, he encouraged others on social media to redistribute the images and videos in Plaskett’s congressional district. The indictment alleges that McCullum also sent text messages to Browne-Louis alerting her to his activities as early as July 2, 2016, as well as e-mail messages containing several of the images and videos.

On July 6, 2016, federal law enforcement initiated a criminal investigation into the unauthorized distribution and publication of the images and videos.

The charges against Browne-Louis involve text messages from McCullum that she allegedly deleted from her cellular phone, as well as false, incomplete, and misleading statements that she allegedly made to law enforcement and a federal grand jury regarding her knowledge of the activities.

Browne-Louis made her first appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and pled not guilty to the charges and was released on personal recognizance pending a status hearing scheduled for July 19, 2017.

McCullum’s first court appearance has not yet been scheduled. McCullum, a Democrat from Pearl, Mississippi, was previously known for his reality TV stint as “Pretty” on VH1’s I Love New York. 

He was also named as one of the Hill’s 50 most beautiful people.

The charge of cyberstalking carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and potential financial penalties. The charge of obstruction of justice carries a statutory maximum of 20 years of incarceration and potential financial penalties.

“Last year, my privacy was invaded, which was followed by an organized smear campaign and defamatory press reports concerning both me and my family,” said Plaskett. “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.”

A sex tape that was leaked online featuring Virgin Islands’ Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, seen here with New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, has resulted in two federal indictments.

“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,” said Plaskett. “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,” said Plaskett.

 

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the United States Capitol Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica Jennings and Tejpal S. Chawla of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Natalia Medina, Criminal Investigator John Marsh, Paralegal Specialists Bianca Evans and Matthew Ruggiero, and Litigation Technology Specialists Leif Hickling, Thomas Royal and Paul Howell, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When a video and nude image of the American Virgin Island’s congressional delegate appeared online as the result of a hacking, Plaskett initially blamed political opponents for the intrusion.

A video of Plaskett’s husband, Jonathan Buckney-Small, nude and wearing makeup appeared along with a topless image of Plaskett appeared briefly online before being removed. The video shot by Plaskett also shows one of her children appearing momentarily.

“The theft and distribution of these personal images via the internet marks a new low in Virgin Islands politics,” said Plaskett. “I am shocked and deeply saddened that someone would stoop to such a level as to invade my marriage and the love of my family in an attempt to besmirch me politically.”

“Private photographs shared between my husband and me, as well as a private playful video of our family, including one of our children, were illegally obtained and disseminated via the internet,” said Plaskett. “To say my family and I are greatly upset would be a tremendous understatement.”


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