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Ex-L.A. GOP official who poked fun at Democrats' sex scandals is accused of sexting teens

As a top official in the Los Angeles County Republican Party, Scott Hounsell was quick to tweet sex scandals involving prominent Democrats such as former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner and ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

But over the last three years, the one-time head of the GOP in L.A. has been mired in a scandal of his own. Twice, Los Angeles prosecutors have accused Hounsell of sending inappropriate messages online to teenage girls.

Through his attorneys, Hounsell strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying both cases were the result of a political vendetta by Democratic elected officials. Prosecutors say Hounsell is falsely claiming partisan dirty tricks to distract from his misbehavior.

"His allegations are utterly baseless," said Rob Wilcox, spokesman for Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, who prosecuted Hounsell's first case.

It began in 2013, when Los Angeles police detectives informed Hounsell they were investigating allegations that he sent inappropriate messages online to a teenage girl.

Hounsell, 33, has a wife and two kids, 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'd founded his own Los Angeles-based political and public relations consulting firm — Del Cielo Group.

The L.A. County district attorney's office declined to file charges but referred the case 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 blowback 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 for defamation and announced it on social media. He said he was a political target of Feuer, a Democrat, because he was Republican. Hounsell cited the media scrutiny, including "several news vans" waiting in front of his house, 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 alleged.

But his declarations of innocence caught the eye of a woman in Pennsylvania, who said she recognized his name from conversations he allegedly had with her daughters, said L.A. Police Det. Gil Escontrias.

The woman called the Los Angeles Police Department, Escontrias said. After filing a search warrant with Facebook to track down the messages, police presented their case to the district attorney's prosecutors last year.

Hounsell was arrested by the LAPD's juvenile division in November. In December, a judge dismissed his claim against the city attorney.

Hounsell is free on $40,000 bail and has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of distributing or showing pornography to a minor. He is awaiting a preliminary hearing, which could be scheduled in February.

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Hounsell declined to comment. But his attorneys say prosecutors cannot prove their case.

"During the time he was my client, there was no proof whatsoever that he was involved in any kind of child endangerment," said Abraham Labbad, who represented Hounsell when he first filed his lawsuit. "I do not represent child molesters or people that endanger children … I just want to make sure that that's put out in every shape or form."

Hounsell's current attorney, Brian Dunn, added: "He's sure he's the victim of some targeted prosecution."

Police maintain there's enough evidence to support the current charges against Hounsell.

The case "alleges the defendant distributed or showed pornography to a minor through social media. The victims in this case contacted law enforcement and provided the information, which is the basis for this case," county prosecutors said in a statement.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 21, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "GOP figure denies sexting teens - Former party chief in L.A. County sent porn to minors, police say." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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