A former campaign worker in the failed congressional bid of former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio was put on probation Monday for spreading a lie that may have contributed to DeMaio's 2014 defeat.
After Todd Bosnich left the campaign, he told San Diego police that he had received an anonymous email threatening that he would never work again in politics if he revealed that he had been sexually harassed by DeMaio.
Amid the scandal, DeMaio, a Republican, was defeated by Democratic incumbent Scott Peters in the race for the 52nd District seat.
In June, Bosnich, 29, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstruction of justice by lying to the FBI about the email. He was sentenced in federal court to five years of probation; he could have faced up to five years in prison.
Along with probation, U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns also sentenced Bosnich to 240 hours of community service, fined him $2500 and required him to receive mental health counseling.
Burns said that the democratic process was victimized by Bosnich's lies.
"Bosnich's criminal act had the very real possibility of improperly tipping the scale toward a particular candidate," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy. "This was far from a harmless prank."
During the campaign, Bosnich had told reporters that he was ''positive" that the email came from DeMaio or someone close to him. He told federal investigators that DeMaio would often send emails and Twitter messages "using alias accounts."
But in his guilty plea, Bosnich admitted that he sent the email himself through a dummy Yahoo account and then took the email to the Peters campaign, which turned it over to police.
A plea bargain states that the email was meant to support Bosnich's allegation that DeMaio had touched him inappropriately and masturbated in front of him. In the plea bargain, prosecutors promised not to seek a prison sentence.
Bosnich claimed he left as the campaign's policy director because of DeMaio's alleged sexual misconduct and that DeMaio had offered him $50,000 to keep quiet.
After the allegations were made public, DeMaio said Bosnich had been fired after sending out an inaccurate and plagiarized piece of campaign literature. DeMaio denied any sexual misconduct or offering to buy Bosnich's silence.
The federal investigation that resulted in the obstruction of justice charge did not involve determining whether the sexual allegations were factual.
The race to represent the 52nd District, which includes a northern slice of San Diego and the cities of Poway and Coronado, was costly and nasty.
Peters won by a margin of 3.2%. DeMaio, who lost a race for mayor in 2012, is now a radio talk-show host in San Diego.
After Bosnich pleaded guilty in June, DeMaio issued a statement that said that "Bosnich's lies were incredibly painful, smeared my reputation and derailed our congressional campaign."