In an outrageous act against a sitting member of Congress, two former employees of a member of the United States House of Representatives were indicted today in a cyberstalking harassment case, according to the Department of Justice.
One of the defendants, Juan R. McCullum, was indicted on two counts of cyberstalking after he allegedly distributed nude images and videos of his former boss, while the second of the defendants, 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, while unnamed by the Justice Department, was revealed by Politico last July to be Democratic Representative Stacey Plaskett.
The focus of the investigation was on McCullum, who told Representative Plaskett, his then employer, that he could repair her damaged and malfunctioning iPhone by taking it to a local Apple Store for her.
McCullum is accused of then going into the files saved on her device without permission, and finding nude photos and videos of her and her spouse.
Soon afterward, he quit working in Representative Plaskett’s office. Later the DOJ says that 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.
Even if these actions do not meet the criteria of “revenge porn”, which is now prosecuted using anti-cyberharassment, invasion of privacy, and computer fraud laws on a Federal Level if a state doesn't have its own legislation, the cyberstalking statutes can be used to prosecute these types of illegal crimes.
McCullum’s behavior, according to the now unsealed indictment returned by the US District Court for the District of Columbia, further describe in full detail the staffer’s interactions with co-worker Browne-Louis.
In the indictment, it's stated that McCullum allegedly alerted Browne-Louis to his illegal actions via a text message and that he also shared with her some of the stolen photos and videos via email.
After finding out there was a criminal investigation ongoing Browne-Louis then deleted those messages and files in an attempt to cover up her knowledge, and according to investigators she then gave “false, incomplete, and misleading statements to law enforcement and a federal grand jury regarding her knowledge of the activities.”
Representative Plaskett employed each of them from roughly the beginning of 2015 to the spring of 2016. The investigation however into the transmission of the stolen photographs began shortly after the posting of the images in July 2016.
It remains unclear whether or not McCullum was acting in a form of retaliation regarding his termination of employment status, or out of malice or for some other purpose such as blackmail.
Browne-Louis made appeared today in DC courts and plead not guilty, and has been scheduled to reappear for another hearing next week.
McCullum however now faces up to 5 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 if she's released early or given some sort of lead way for probation.