Second Dem staffer charged for scheme to leak private info of GOP senators during Kavanaugh hearing

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A second Democratic staffer and aide to Sen. Maggie Hassan has been charged for her part in a scheme to hack Senate computers and leak personal information.

Samantha Deforest-Davis, the former staff assistant for the New Hampshire senator, was charged with two misdemeanors for her part in helping former Hassan aide Jackson Cosko who doxxed Republican senators during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.

Deforest-Davis, who worked in Hassan’s office from August 2017 until December 2018, was charged with aiding a computer fraud and evidence tampering, according to Politico. The former staff assistant, who was fired after her possible involvement in Cosko’s scheme was discovered, is expected to plead guilty.

Cosko was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for what was characterized as “the largest data breach in Senate history,” according to prosecutor Demian Ahn.

After being fired last year, the former computer administrator on Hassan’s staff used a key belonging to Deforest-Davis to enter the office and install undetected spy devices on the Senate network that stole work and personal email passwords as well as other data.

Cosko eventually released the information like the home addresses and phone numbers of Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee as well as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul.

“The defendant operated under the belief that he was entitled to inflict emotional distress upon United States Senators and their families, simply because they disagreed with the defendant and had different political views,” prosecutors wrote. “The government believes that there appears to have been an increase in similar criminal harassment, particularly through social media channels, by people across the political spectrum.”

Deforest-Davis was charged on the same day as Cosko, who pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday.

According to Politico:

Prosecutors say that after Cosko was fired from Hassan’s office last year, he used Deforest-Davis’s keys to repeatedly return to the office, copy dozens of gigabytes of sensitive data, and install sophisticated keyloggers that captured the work and personal computer passwords of Hassan staffers as they logged in.

Prosecutors say Deforest-Davis didn’t give Cosko permission to use her keys the first time he surreptitiously entered Hassan’s office, but the colleague later agreed to loan Cosko her office key and agreed to “wipe down” computers in the office to erase traces of Cosko’s fingerprints. Deforest-Davis and Cosko had a “close relationship” and she also owed borrowed money from Cosko to pay her rent, court papers say.

 

Prosecutors noted that Cosko “continued to be angry about his termination for months” and took “advantage of his in-depth knowledge of the office’s computer security measures and practices, engaged in an extensive computer fraud and data theft scheme that he carried out by repeatedly burglarizing Senator Hassan’s Office.”

He made another attempt to get back to Hassan’s office in October when he asked Deforest-Davis for her key again, but fled when he was caught by one of the senator’s employees, according to prosecutors. He then allegedly emailed Deforest-Davis, saying: “If you tell anyone I will leak it all. Emails signal conversations gmails. Senators children’s health information and socials.”

An arraignment has not yet been set Deforest-Davis, who reportedly worked earlier this year as a legislative correspondent for Virginia Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Hassan “appreciates the work of Capitol Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in pursuing justice in this case,” Aaron Jacobs, a spokesman for Hassan said.

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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