VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — A former campaign staffer of congressional candidate Scott Taylor pleaded guilty to election infractions related to Taylor’s 2018 campaign.
Roberta Marciano initially faced two felony counts of making false statements on a 2018 election petition. Under a plea agreement, she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor willful neglect. She was sentenced to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. The judge suspended all of the jail time and the majority of the fine, leaving Marciano to pay $1,000.
Marciano, 24, was indicted back in March, one of multiple people who circulated petitions during Taylor’s 2018 re-election campaign to get third-party candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot in order to siphon votes from opponent Elaine Luria in the 2nd District race. Luria, a Democrat, won the election and is running against Taylor again this year.
Outside the courthouse, Marciano’s attorney said she was naïve and did not realize the impact of her signature approving petitions that bore invalid signatures. She was 21 at the time in question.
“Ms. Marciano never forged anyone’s signatures or fabricated any voter profiles,” said attorney Eric Plumlee. “Rather, Ms. Marciano’s misstep was to sign several petitions that were placed in front of her.”
The petitions by themselves were not illegal under Virginia law. However multiple investigations, including by the Virginian-Pilot, found that the petitions included dozens of invalid signatures, including those of people who were dead. Neither Plumlee nor Marciano would comment when asked by the newspaper whether Marciano realized that, or on the possibility that she was directed to sign the petitions by someone else when asked by 10 On Your Side.
Plumlee says the plea agreement, leaving her convicted of a misdemeanor rather than a felony, more accurately reflects Marciano’s role in the case.
“She has now been convicted of a misdemeanor offense that does not involve lying, cheating or stealing,” he said.
Two other former staffers have also been charged so far. In March Lauren Peabody, formerly Lauren Creekmore, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of woeful neglect of election duties in the case. Her sentence was similar to that handed down Thursday to Marciano.
Heather Guillot was indicted earlier this month on one charge of making false statements/election fraud.
Taylor has long claimed he had no involvement in the ballot fraud scandal, but the case remains under investigation. In a press release Thursday, Taylor claimed he had never been under investigation, according to a Virginia State Police investigator. “In no way are you being looked at as
any type of suspect,” Taylor says the investigator told him.