VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — An ex-campaign staffer has pleaded guilty as prosecutors continue to investigate former Congressman Scott Taylor’s 2018 reelection campaign.
Lauren Peabody, formerly Lauren Creekmore, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of woeful neglect of election duties in the case. She was given 12 months, all suspended, and a $1,000 fine.
She was originally indicted on two felony election fraud charges, but those were reduced to two woeful neglect misdemeanors. One of those charges was withdrawn.
The case centers around what prosecutors say was a concerted effort by the Taylor campaign to get independent candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot in the race for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. Prosecutors say Taylor’s campaign thought Brown would help take votes away from Taylor’s Democratic opponent Elaine Luria, who went on to win the election.
A stipulation of facts from prosecutors says the case unfolded after Taylor met with staffers in Washington, D.C. in June 2018 to discuss campaign strategy, after Brown announced she was running as an independent. Part of that strategy included having staffers gather signatures to get Brown on the ballot.
Peabody, along with several other staffers at Taylor’s Virginia Beach office, would go on to circulate petitions as instructed by the campaign, prosecutors say. The petitions were later sent to then State Senator Frank Wagner’s Virginia Beach office to be signed and notarized as required by law.
Prosecutors say Peabody signed affidavits for 14 separate petitions, swearing she “witnessed the signatures of each person who signed this [petition].”
However, prosecutors say that during an investigation by Virginia State Police, it was determined that two of the petitions were circulated by another staffer, Tina Mapes, and Peabody did not witness the signing of those petitions.
“Her plea today to a misdemeanor which does not involve fraud, dishonesty or corrupt conduct is a fair resolution to this matter as it pertains to Ms. Peabody and she looks forward to getting on with her life and putting this very frightening experience behind her,” her attorney John Fletcher said Tuesday.
Peabody’s guilty plea comes as prosecutors also investigate an alleged signature forging case involving the Taylor campaign.
Taylor, who is running again for his former congressional seat, has claimed he was never involved in any wrongdoing or even investigated, but he’s yet to be officially exonerated.
Prosecutors say that more indictments are pending in the case, but could not say for who.