Two ex-aides pleaded guilty Tuesday to District and federal charges for circulating nude images and video of an elected representative to Congress and her husband to harm her reelection.
Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett (D) last year confirmed she was the representative identified as "S.P." in court papers, saying that in 2016, "my privacy was invaded, which was followed by an organized smear campaign and defamatory press reports concerning both me and my family."
Juan R. McCullum, 36, of Washington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and cyberstalking crimes and co-worker Dorene Browne-Louis, 45, of Upper Marlboro, Md., admitted to conspiracy and being an accessory after the fact, all misdemeanors.
Under a plea deal with prosecutors, McCullum faces one year and 361 days in federal prison, all suspended except for one year and one day, at sentencing March 8 before U.S. District John D. Bates of Washington. Browne-Louis faces up to six months on each count and will be sentenced April 23.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tejpal Singh Chawla said the delegate intends to attend sentencing.
McCullum admitted to offering Plaskett help by taking her malfunctioning, password-protected iPhone in March 2016 to a local Apple store for repairs.
In July 2016, after McCullum left the member's staff, he told Browne-Louis, that he had private, nude images and video of the delegate, which were maintained on the iPhone, according to signed statements of offense by both defendants. Both admitted they were aware that Plaskett and her husband, Jonathan Buckney-Small, identified in court papers as "J. B. S," had not consented or agreed to disclosure or publication of the images.
Some of the personal photographs surfaced on the Internet in July 2016 shortly before a primary election.
Plaskett said after the original charges were filed that her family continued "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.
The defendants were indicted in July before pleading to reduced charges. McCullum pleaded to two federal counts of criminal access to a protected computer and two District counts of conspiracy and attempted first degree unlawful publication of a sexual image. Brown-Louis admitted to one District count of conspiracy and the federal accessory charge.
McCullum worked from April 2015 until June 2016 in Plaskett's legislative counsel's office and Browne-Louis worked as a scheduler from January 2015 until April 2016.
McCullum said he created a Hotmail email and a Facebook account under a fake name and shared images in at least 10 emails to people including the governor of the Virgin Islands, other politicians, media and people associated with Plaskett's campaign, and on a widely accessed Facebook page.
Browne-Louis said she provided him some email addresses, including the governor's, and sent an image to a campaign aide of Plaskett's main primary challenger, who shared it with a reporter, who did not publish it.
In 2015, McCullum was cited in an annual list of the "50 Most Beautiful" by the Hill newspaper, which said he had been a former reality TV star known as "Pretty" on VH1's "I Love New York."
Plaskett, 51, a former New York City prosecutor and Justice Department official, was overwhelmingly reelected to her second term in 2016.