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Former DC staffer charged for distributing nude photos of sitting congresswoman

Former DC staffer charged for distributing nude photos of sitting congresswoman

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capitol hill congress  Orhan Cam / SHUTTERSTOCK

Two former employees of a sitting member of the US House of Representatives were indicted today in a cyberstalking case, according to the Department of Justice. Juan R. McCullum was indicted on two counts of cyberstalking after he allegedly distributed nude images and videos of his former boss, while his fellow former co-worker Dorene Browne-Louis was indicted on two counts of obstruction of justice for deleting messages from McCullum and giving false statements to law enforcement. The victim in the case, unnamed by the Justice Department, was revealed by Politico last July to be Democratic Rep. Stacey Plaskett.

The case centers on McCullum, who told Plaskett, whom he worked for at the time, that he could repair her malfunctioning iPhone by taking it to a local Apple Store. McCullum then, without permission, went through the private contents of the device, finding nude photos and videos of her and her spouse. He then stopped working in the Plaskett’s office some time thereafter.

McCullum illegally went through the victim’s iPhone without her consent

Then, a few months later, McCullum “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 the member’s congressional district,” reads the Justice Department’s press release. While these actions may not meet the criteria of “revenge porn” — which is often prosecuted using anti-cyberharassment, invasion privacy, and computer fraud laws in the absence of a state’s explicit revenge porn legislation — cyberstalking statues can be used to punish related crimes.

These details of McCullum’s behavior, from the unsealed indictment returned to the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, further describe the staffer’s interactions with co-worker Browne-Louis. McCullum allegedly alerted Browne-Louis to his actions via text message, and he also shared with her some of the stolen photos and videos via email. She then deleted those messages when it was clear a criminal investigation was underway and gave “false, incomplete, and misleading statements ... to law enforcement and a federal grand jury regarding her knowledge of the activities.”

Both worked for Plaskett from roughly the beginning of 2015 to the spring of 2016. The investigation into the distribution of the stolen media began shortly after the posting of the images in July 2016. It’s unclear whether McCullum was acting in retaliation regarding his employment status, out of malice, or for some other purpose. Browne-Louis made her first court appearance today in DC, pled not guilty, and is scheduled to appear at a status hearing next week. McCullum faces up to five years in prison, while Browne-Louis could face a maximum of 20 years of incarceration, which could include jail time or restrictions on movement and electronic device use.