Politics

Former House Staffers Indicted Over Nude Image Distribution

Charges involve private images of U.S. Virgin Islands delegate circulated last year

U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett said she was grateful to her constituents for their support during her family’s ordeal. (Courtesy Plaskett’s congressional website)

Two former staffers of U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett were indicted Thursday following an investigation into the circulation of nude photos and videos of the Democrat and her husband that one of the staffers found on her iPhone, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia said in a statement.

Juan McCullum, 35, a legislative assistant for Plaskett in 2015 and 2016, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of cyberstalking for allegedly creating accounts on Hotmail and Facebook using a made-up name to distribute and post the photos and video in July 2016, the statement read.

Dorene Browne-Louis, 45, also a Plaskett staffer in 2015 and 2016, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that she deleted text messages from McCullum about the images and delivered “false, incomplete and misleading statements … to law enforcement and a federal grand jury regarding her knowledge” of McCullum’s activities, the U.S. attorney’s office stated.

The indictments allege that in March of last year, McCullum offered to take Plaskett’s iPhone to the Apple store to fix problems she was having with it. McCullum “was not given permission to take, copy, or distribute any of the contents of the iPhone,” which stored the nude images, according to the U.S. attorney’s office statement.

The bank of images circulated online included a topless “selfie” of Plaskett and a video in which her husband appears naked and wearing makeup. One of the couple’s children also appears in the video, according to a statement from Plaskett’s office released last July.

“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 Thursday in a statement to Roll Call. “I was informed today that preliminary arrests have 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 of the crimes committed against me, and those who I love.”

“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,” Plaskett said. “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.”

Federal law enforcement launched the criminal investigation into the online distribution of the images on July 6 last year.

McCullum was a contestant on VH1’s matchmaking reality show “I Love New York” in 2007 before entering politics. He has not yet been scheduled to appear in court.

According to Browne-Louis’s LinkedIn profile, she is an executive assistant for the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, or USVIEDA, which could not be reached to confirm her employment status.

Plaskett is in her second term as the U.S. Virgin Islands’ nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives. She serves on the Agriculture and Oversight and Government Reform committees.

A lawyer, she previously worked for the Justice Department and in the private sector with the USVIEDA.

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