A former aide to Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio admitted in federal court Friday he used a phony email account, making it appear DeMaio or one of his associates threatened him.
Todd Bosnich, the former campaign staffer, also admitted he lied to the FBI when questioned about that email. He pleaded guilty in federal court to a single count of obstruction of justice.
According to documents released Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Bosnich set up a “dummy” Yahoo email account, using a false gender and date of birth. He then used that account, firstname.lastname@example.org, one time “to send a particularly ugly and threatening message.”
Prosecutors said that email “suggested that the ‘anonymous’ author of the email would ensure” Bosnich would never work in politics again if he continued to make allegations against DeMaio.
At the time, that threatening email was believed to have been sent by an anonymous user. It became one element of controversy after Bosnich was fired from DeMaio’s campaign.
Last October, Bosnich accused DeMaio of sexual harassment. DeMaio flatly denied the allegations, calling them outrageous lies.
By pleading guilty, Bosnich could face a maximum 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release. He is currently out of custody after posting a $10,000 personal appearance bond. His sentencing is scheduled for August 31.
Friday, the prosecutor for the case said Bosnich should get probation, not prison time for the crime.
Click here to read the full plea agreement.
According to federal prosecutors, Bosnich’s sent the “anonymous” email to himself “to bolster his claims that DeMaio was threatening him to remain silent about the alleged sexual harassment. In this fashion, Defendant's claims about DeMaio's sexual harassment appeared not only to be legitimate, but to take on a new and, perhaps, more sinister context.”
The Grand Jury issued subpoenas to attempt to identify who sent the threatening emails, according to prosecutors.
Click here to read more about the charges.
After becoming aware of the “anonymous” email and the “serious nature of the allegations” contained in it, the San Diego Police Department notified the FBI.
In October, NBC 7 Investigates first reported that anonymous emails sent to Bosnich were the subject of FBI agent interviews with potential witnesses.
According to court documents, the FBI spoke with Bosnich last June. During that meeting Bosnich was told he was being interviewed as a victim as part of an investigation “into whether DeMaio had sent or caused the sending of the threatening emails, which he had discussed with the SDPD and the media.”
According to prosecutors, during that meeting with the FBI, Bosnich “speculated” whether it was DeMaio or someone else with the politician's campaign that sent the email.
Bosnich also said, “DeMaio was fond of sending emails (and communicating via Twitter) using alias accounts,” and “that DeMaio used this tactic quite often.”
In a statement Friday, DeMaio said, “Todd Bosnich’s lies were incredibly painful, smeared my reputation and derailed our Congressional campaign.”
According to court documents, the FBI met with Bosnich again last October. At that meeting, Bosnich “repeated his claim that he and his mother received a total of three threatening emails. When questioned specifically about the authorship of these emails, Defendant falsely asserted several times that he 'did not know' who sent him the Threatening Email. Defendant also stated that he suspected that the author might have been DeMaio or one of his close associates.”
Bosnich “made a serious and foolish mistake,” Frank Vecchione, Bosnich’s attorney, said in court Friday. Vecchione said Bosnich is now in counseling for his problems.
By writing the email and telling the SDPD, the FBI and the media he did not know who sent the email Bosnich, according to prosecutors, attempted to influence the DeMaio investigation. “He acted corruptly as he recognized that what he was telling the government was inaccurate and did, in fact, influence a pending official proceeding.”
Read the full statement from DeMaio below:
“Todd Bosnich’s lies were incredibly painful, smeared my reputation and derailed our Congressional campaign. While the criminal prosecution today may hold Bosnich accountable on some level, Congressman Scott Peters shares responsibility for promoting Bosnich’s smears and lies for political gain.
"I want to thank the FBI and US Attorney for pursuing the truth and seeking justice in this matter. I also want to thank the thousands of supporters who stood by me and saw this disgusting smear for what it was. Your faith and support sustained me through this nightmare.”