The former head of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County has been ordered to avoid contact with juveniles for the next 16 months as part of a plea bargain with county prosecutors in a case involving the distribution of pornography, officials said.
Scott Hounsell was initially charged with a felony for distributing pornography to a minor late last year after a mother in Pennsylvania told local prosecutors Hounsell had exchanged inappropriate Facebook messages with her daughters.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Hounsell on Tuesday pleaded no contest to the charge, which was reduced to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to participate in a 52-week sex offender counseling program, said Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Hounsell was also ordered to avoid all contact with juveniles who are not family without adult supervision for the next 16 months and to 30 days of community service with Caltrans.
His attorney did not return a request for comment. It was the second time in three years that Hounsell was accused of an inappropriate relationship with teenage girls.
In 2013, Los Angeles police detectives informed Hounsell they were investigating allegations that he had sent inappropriate messages online to a teenage girl.
Hounsell, 33, has a wife and two children and lives in Los Angeles. As a nationally ranked speaker while attending Cal State Northridge, he earned an internship with a Republican assemblyman during his senior year. By 2011, he had founded his own Los Angeles-based political and public relations consulting firm — Del Cielo Group.
The district attorney’s office declined to file charges in the earlier case, but referred it to the city attorney, who brought misdemeanor charges in August 2013.
The complaint accused Hounsell of exchanging Facebook messages with the intent of trying to seduce the girl.
When the accusation went public, the backlash hit Hounsell hard. One website's headline read, "Ex-GOP Leader Who Made Fun of Weiner Arrested for Sexting a Minor."
Hounsell maintained his innocence. Eventually, he agreed to attend counseling sessions and make a $2,000 contribution to a local charity in exchange for the charges being dropped.
Hounsell then filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming defamation and announced it on social media. He said he was a political target of Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, a Democrat, because he was Republican. Hounsell noted the intense media scrutiny he came under after his arrest.
"In the field of politics, any hint of impropriety, especially sexual impropriety with a minor, makes a person almost entirely unemployable," his lawsuit said. "Scott was arrested at the time two Democrats Anthony Weiner of New York and Bob Filner of San Diego were both in trouble for sexual misconduct."
The L.A. city attorney's office "chose to make a public case of the filing in an effort to defame Scott and Republicans," Hounsell's lawsuit claimed.
But his declarations of innocence caught the eye of Robin Smith’s daughters in Pennsylvania.
The Smith family knew Hounsell because he had spent time with them during his mission with the Mormon church in about 2005, Smith told the Times.
One of Smith’s daughters, who was about 16 at the time, said Hounsell had exchanged “hundreds” of intimate messages with her on Facebook. One of Smith’s other daughters made the same claim.
“I was floored, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “It infuriates me. Look what you did to my little girls. Look what you did to my family. We trusted him.”
Smith alerted authorities in Los Angeles, who began to investigate. Technicians recovered the messages that had since been deleted, Smith said. Hounsell was arrested in November. Authorities said he had been “grooming” the girls for a physical relationship.
“There is no political agenda,” Smith said. “This is about my children and that other girl that didn’t go where it should’ve gone.”
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