Ex-aide ad­mits lie about San Diego can­di­date

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO — In 2014, the na­tional Repub­li­can Party was con­fi­dent that it could de­feat a Demo­cratic con­gress­man from San Diego.

Reg­is­tra­tion in the 52nd Dis­trict is closely split. The in­cum­bent, Scott Peters, an en­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer and for­mer City Coun­cil mem­ber, wasin his first term af­ter nar­rowly de­feat­ing the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent, Brian Bil­bray, in 2012.

The GOP chal­lenger in 2014was for­mer Coun­cil­man Carl DeMaio, who en­joyed high name recog­ni­tion through his hard-charg­ing style and his pledge to “fix Congress first” by mak­ing it more ef­fi­cient and re­spon­sive to tax­pay­ers.

But the fi­nal weeks of the cam­paign fo­cused to a large de­gree on al­le­ga­tions made by a for­mer DeMaio staff mem­ber that the can­di­date sex­u­ally ha­rassed him. DeMaio’s cam­paign seem­ingly never re­cov­ered, and he later blamed his de­feat on the charges.

On Fri­day, the ex-staffer ad­mit­ted in fed­eral court that he lied when he claimed to have got­ten an anony­mouse mail threat­en­ing that he would never work again in pol­i­tics if he re­vealed that he had been sex­u­ally ha­rassed

by DeMaio.

Todd Bos­nich, 29, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by ly­ing to the FBI about the email.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Bos­nich had told re­porters that he was ’’pos­i­tive” that the email came from DeMaio or some­one close to him. He told fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors that DeMaio would of­ten send emails and Twit­ter mes­sages “us­ing alias ac­counts.”

But in his guilty plea, Bos­nich ad­mit­ted that he sent the email him­self through a dummy Ya­hoo ac­count and then took the email to the Peters cam­paign, which turned it over to the San Diego Po­lice Depart­ment.

Bos­nich’s ac­tions “had the po­ten­tial to af­fect a na­tional elec­tion,” said As­sis­tant U.S. Atty. Phil Halpern. “Mr. Bos­nich, for what­ever rea­son, had a great deal of hos­til­ity and per­sonal an­i­mus to­ward Mr. DeMaio. As a re­sult of his feel­ing ag­grieved, Bos­nich wanted to get back at Mr. DeMaio.”

A plea bar­gain signed by Bos­nich and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors states that the email was meant to sup­port Bos­nich’s al­le­ga­tion that DeMaio had touched him in­ap­pro­pri­ately and mas­tur­bated in front of him.

Bos­nich claimed he left as the cam­paign’s pol­icy direc­tor be­cause of DeMaio’s al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct and that De Maio had of­fered him $50,000 to keep quiet.

Af­ter the al­le­ga­tions were made public, DeMaio said Bos­nich had been fired af­ter send­ing out an in­ac­cu­rate and pla­gia­rized piece of cam­paign lit­er­a­ture. DeMaio de­nied any sex­ual mis­con­duct or of­fer­ing to buy Bos­nich’s si­lence.

The fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion that re­sulted in the ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charge did not in­volve de­ter­min­ing whether the sex­ual al­le­ga­tions were fac­tual.

Bos­nich’s at­tor­ney, Frank Vec­chione, said that his client “is ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity and wants to move on with his life.”

The race to rep­re­sent the 52nd Dis­trict, which in­cludes a north­ern slice of San Diego and the cities of Poway and Coron­ado, was costly and nasty.

Peters, 56, stressed DeMaio’s rep­u­ta­tion for di­vi­sive­ness and blasted him as a tea party fol­lower; DeMaio said Peters was too lib­eral for San Diego and had proven in­ef­fec­tive in Congress. Peters won by a mar­gin of 3.2%.

DeMaio, 40, who lost a race for mayor in 2012, is now ara­dio talk-showhost in San Diego. He is also at­tempt­ing to lead a statewide cam­paign in fa­vor of re­form­ing pen­sions for public em­ploy­ees, his sig­na­ture is­sue while serv­ing on the City Coun­cil.

Af­ter Bos­nich pleaded guilty, DeMaio is­sued a state­ment that said that “Bos­nich’s lies were in­cred­i­bly painful, smeared my rep­u­ta­tion and derailed our con­gres­sional cam­paign.... I also want to thank the thou­sands of sup­port­ers who stood by me and saw this dis­gust­ing smear for what it was.”

Peters, DeMaio said, “shares re­spon­si­bil­ity for pro­mot­ing Bos­nich’s smears and lies for po­lit­i­cal gain.”

In re­sponse, Peters said, “Some­one came to us al­leg­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment by Mr. DeMaio; we took ev­ery­thing to the po­lice and they thanked us for it. [DeMaio] was ac­cused by two peo­ple fromhis own op­er­a­tion. He’s the one who needs to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity.” Peters was cit­ing a sec­ond sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tion by a for­mer staff mem­ber that was made two days be­fore the elec­tion.

Bos­nich could face a max­i­mum sen­tence of 20 years in pri­son and a $250,000 fine when he is sen­tenced Aug. 31. As part of the plea bar­gain, the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice has agreed not to rec­om­mend that the judge sen­tence Bos­nich to pri­son.

Richard Grenell, me­dia ad­vi­sor to the DeMaio cam­paign, crit­i­cized the me­dia, in­clud­ing the Los An­ge­les Times and CNN, for re­port­ing on the al­le­ga­tions: “Th­ese same re­porters should now hold Team Peters accountable for their dirty tricks or risk en­cour­ag­ing more ugly pol­i­tics be­cause a cam­paign gets away with it.”

Carl Luna, po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at San Diego Mesa Col­lege, called the in­ci­dent “an­other tawdry chap­ter in San Diego pol­i­tics. Some­times I think this town is try­ing out for a re­cur­ring role on‘ Scan­dal,’ ” the tele­vi­sion se­ries about hard­ball pol­i­tick­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

The Peters cam­paign “tar­nished it­self by be­com­ing part of the nar­ra­tive for un­proven al­le­ga­tions,” Luna said. But he doubted that the al­le­ga­tions cost DeMaio the elec­tion.

“In our po­lar­ized elec­tions, it takes a lot more than al­le­ga­tions and in­nu­endo to get some­one not to vote for their side,” he said.

‘As a re­sult of his feel­ing ag­grieved, [Todd] Bos­nich wanted to get back at Mr. DeMaio.’

— Phil Halpern,

as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney

Don Bartletti Los An­ge­les Times

REPUB­LI­CAN Carl DeMaio, left, was chal­leng­ing Demo­cratic Rep. Scott Peters, right, when a for­mer cam­paign con­sul­tant ac­cused DeMaio of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

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