Legal Law

Police Investigating Porn Video Shot in Senate Committee Room [Updated] – JONATHAN TURLEY

“Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof; or

Whoever receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing it to have been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; but if the value of such property in the aggregate, combining amounts from all the counts for which the defendant is convicted in a single case, does not exceed the sum of $1,000, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

The Capitol police could argue that this constitutes purloining or using government property for personal purposes.

The key factor is the fact that this videotape was made with the apparent intent to publish or to distribute. Sex in congressional offices — by both members and staff — have long been known to occur on Capitol Hill. Yet, this was a public hearing room, albeit closed at the time, and a tape made for what appears public viewing.

That brings us back to trespass. The question may be whether this was access under legal authority for a staffer. The Capitol police can argue that access to a staff position does not mean a license for entry for any purpose. Under 18 U.S.C. 1752, trespass covers anyone who “knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so.”

Does a staffer have legal authority to enter any hearing room for any purpose? That could be a defense raised by counsel, but it would seem likely that any access is premised on an official function.

The pressure on the Capitol police is likely to be considerable in the coming days. Only recently, House members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jamie Raskin claimed that house rules were broken by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene showing  Hunter Biden and a woman in a revealing picture, though he was purportedly wearing a swimsuit.  Raskin objected that it would constitute “pornographic exhibits that might not be suitable for children watching.”

While this was not a public hearing, those objections now seem almost puritanical in light what just occurred over in the Senate hearing room.

Maese-Czeropski was named in an earlier incident in Congress when he was accused of confronting Ohio Republican Congressman Max Miller over his support for Israel. He has categorically denied that accusation.

He is listed working of Cardin  since October 2021, and previously worked as a field organizer for the Democratic Party in Virginia. He also lists work as a climate researcher for charity Friends of the Earth.

What is likely to get the most attention, however, is that he also reportedly appeared in a campaign ad in 2020 with President Biden with the words “thank you for teaching.”

Maese-Czeropski went on to social media to issue a statement of regret but to say that “[t]his has been a difficult time for me, as I have been attacked for who I love to pursue a political agenda.”  When one films a porn scene in a Senate hearing room, the resulting anger is likely focused on the conduct rather than the identity of the parties. A heterosexual tryst would produce the same obvious objections.

The spin on the controversy is similar to the effort of Susanna Gibson in a Politico article. In a bizarre piece on Gibson’s scandal involving sex acts on the Internet, Politico was mocked for leaving out key details as Gibson claimed that she was shocked that other people saw the intimate videos with her husband.

Gibson and her husband posted more than a dozen videos that were archived on a site called Chaturbate in September 2022 shortly before she announced her candidacy for office. Viewers were told that they could pay for her to perform specific sex acts “for tips.” While the scandal was revealed by the Washington Post, the article suggests it was skullduggery by conservatives and that her privacy was shattered.

Gibson has made dubious threats to sue over the disclosures of the videos and even alleged that the disclosures constituted a sex crime. She attempted to portray the controversy as an attack on all women. It seemed to work. Gibson came close to winning the recent election despite the scandal as the Democratic candidate for the state legislature.

In the controversy involving Maese-Czeropski, the video was posted to a private group for gay men and the owner identified himself as a “twink” engaging in sex acts with his older “bear” partner. The group posting does not suggest a private intimate video shared between a couple.

The site does not appear to generate revenue, which could have bearing on potential charges discussed above. Using the congressional space for commercial purposes can factor into possible charges.

The resignation of Maese-Czeropski will not necessarily end any Capitol Police investigation. Given the possibilities of charges, further public statements are unwise until the former aide speaks with counsel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *