SAN DIEGO (AP) — A disgruntled aide to former congressional candidate Carl DeMaio pleaded guilty Friday to obstruction of justice for lying to federal investigators about a threatening email he wrote but said might have come from DeMaio, part of an effort to sabotage the campaign last fall.
Todd Bosnich, 29, rocked one of the nation's most closely watched congressional races by claiming DeMaio sexually harassed him and that he was offered $50,000 to keep quiet, while DeMaio said he suspected Bosnich of a campaign office burglary. DeMaio, an openly gay Republican, lost his bid to unseat Democrat Scott Peters by 3.2 percentage points in a campaign that was dominated by the back-and-forth accusations during its final month.
Prosecutors declined to pursue charges on the harassment or burglary allegations but focused on a threatening email that Bosnich sent to himself from a Yahoo account he created June 5 under an anonymous pseudonym. Bosnich turned over the email to the FBI and told investigators that he believed it may have come from DeMaio or someone close to the candidate.
Phillip Halpern, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in court that Bosnich harbored great animus toward DeMaio "for whatever reason" and was determined to get back at him for wrongs that were real or imagined. According to a plea agreement, Bosnich believed the threatening email would bolster his claims that DeMaio sexually harassed him and that he was offered hush money.
Prosecutors declined to release the content of the email but the plea agreement calls it "particularly ugly and threatening." It said Bosnich, who had left the campaign at that time, would never work in politics again if he continued to make allegations against DeMaio.
Bosnich, who was allowed to remain free on $10,000 bond, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison but prosecutors said they will recommend probation when he is sentenced Aug. 31. Halpern said the government's biggest concern was that Bosnich harms himself, not others.
Bosnich admitted guilt in court but didn't address the substance of the allegations. His attorney, Frank Vecchione, said, "He is accepting responsibility and wants to move on with his life."
DeMaio, 40, is a former San Diego city councilman and mayoral candidate who now hosts a radio show and is leading a campaign for statewide ballot initiative to curb public pensions.
"Todd Bosnich's lies were incredibly painful, smeared my reputation and derailed our congressional campaign," DeMaio said Friday.
Dave McCulloch, DeMaio's campaign spokesman, said shortly after the November election that the controversy created "massive attrition and erosion" among the candidate's Republican base, including older, evangelical Christian voters, and created "an ick factor."
Eric Birnbaum, the FBI's special agent in charge in San Diego, said Bosnich "engaged in a pattern of lies and deceitful acts" to keep investigators off track.
"The integrity of the American electoral process is the very bedrock of our democracy," said Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California. "These actions were far from a harmless prank and cannot be tolerated."