Two former staff members have been charged in the circulation of nude images and video of an elected representative to Congress and her husband, federal prosecutors and the U.S. Capitol Police announced Thursday in Washington.
Juan R. McCullum, 35, of Washington, 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, said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing D. Phillips and Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa in a statement.
The charging documents state that both defendants worked for the same official, who is identified in the filings by the initials S.P.
Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett (D), confirmed Thursday in statement that she is “S.P.,” saying that “last year, my privacy was invaded, which was followed by an organized smear campaign and defamatory press reports concerning both me and my family.”
Plaskett said of her family that “we continue to be saddened by the damage we suffered as a result of those egregious acts,” while thanking investigators for their work and people in the Virgin Islands for their support.
Some of the personal photographs surfaced on the Internet in July 2016 shortly before a primary election.
According to the indictment, McCullum worked from April 2015 until June 2016 in the House member’s legislative office in Washington. Browne-Louis worked in the same office from January 2015 until April 2016.
Public staff records show both worked for Plaskett during those times, McCullum as a legislative counsel and Browne-Lewis as a scheduler.
According to an indictment handed up Tuesday and unsealed Thursday, McCullum offered in March 2016 to help take a House member’s malfunctioning, password-protected iPhone to a local Apple store to be repaired.
McCullum was not given permission to take, copy, or distribute any of the contents of the iPhone, which contained the private, nude images and videos, authorities alleged.
In July 2016, when the personal images appeared on the Internet, Plaskett condemned the public unauthorized distribution of private photographs she had shared with her husband, Jonathan Buckney-Small, and the posting of a “playful video of our family,” that included one of their children.
“To say my family and I are greatly upset would be a tremendous understatement,” she said at that time, adding that the dissemination of the images was “a shockingly disgusting invasion of my family’s and my privacy — not to mention criminal acts . . .”
Browne-Louis pleaded not guilty before a U.S. magistrate Thursday to the obstruction of justice charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and was released on personal recognizance, authorities said. Her attorney declined to comment Thursday.
McCullum has not yet appeared in court on charges that carry a maximum of five years in prison.
Attorneys for McCullum could not immediately be identified.
In July 2016, after McCullum left the congressional member’s staff, he allegedly created a Hotmail account and a Facebook account under a fake name to post the material and encouraged sharing it, the indictment states. The indictment also alleged that McCullum texted Browne-Louis as early as July 2, 2016, and emailed her some of the material.
Federal investigators launched an investigation within days, and alleged that Browne-Louis deleted McCullum’s texts from her phone and gave false and misleading statements to them and the grand jury. Browne-Louis is set to return to court Wednesday.
Congressional employment records show that after McCullum left Plaskett’s office, he worked for a few months in 2016 for Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.). A spokeswoman for Wilson declined to comment Thursday.
In 2015 McCullum, posing with his English bulldog, was cited in an annual list of the “50 Most Beautiful” by the Hill, which said he had been a former reality TV star known as “Pretty” on VH1’s “I Love New York.”
Plaskett, 51, a lawyer and former New York City prosecutor and Justice Department official, was overwhelmingly reelected to her second House term last year after winning an August Democratic primary with 85 percent of the vote.